Social media stories: Unpacking ‘journalism without fear or favour’

On World Press Freedom Day, Uganda media professionals converged on Twitter to reflect on professionalism and independence of media in the country. In a tweet chat held on Saturday May 2, 2020, leading editors, media development professionals and thinkers discussed the theme of the day: “Journalism without fear or favour”.

“It speaks to the principle of journalistic or editorial independence in the pursuit of the media’s roles of informing the public, providing a platform for debate, monitoring and holding power to account,” tweeted Peter Mwesige, Executive Director ACME, who was one of the panelists in the chat.

Carol Beyanga, Managing Editor Digital Content at Nation Media Group Uganda, added, “It is journalism that answers questions, investigating tips and provides information regardless of who’s at the center of the story or what it means for them when the story’s out. It goes for all topics out there, from politics to health to religion.”

What did this all mean in the midst of a pandemic? How are journalists to respond to the information and disinformation overload?

Prisca Baike, a participant in the discussion suggested that journalism without fear or favor during the COVID-19 pandemic calls for solution journalism. “Stories should be bold, deep, question the status quo and dig deep to provide answers that the public needs to know.”

Many agreed:

Alex Atuhaire, the Editorial Director at PML Daily noted that the pandemic has been a challenging period for media on all fronts.

“The business model has been particularly challenged especially for the legacy channels. With salary cuts announced and probable job losses expected in the medium term, journalism without fear or favour is under serious challenge,” he tweeted.

The debate was later dominated by discussions on journalists’ pay and welfare.

The tweet chat, organised by Media Focus on Africa Uganda and media partners in the country, was just one of several activities to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.

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