Only seven female journalists scooped prizes in different categories at the Uganda National Journalism Awards on Friday. In total, 34 journalists and writing teams won first-place awards in 19 reporting categories.
This year, a total of 241 entries were submitted to the awards. However, women constituted only 16% of participating journalists, a significant decrease from the last awards (2017), where over 30% of entries were from female journalists.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, the African Centre for Media Excellence’s board chairperson, Prof Monica B Chibita encouraged women journalists to “participate more not only in the awards but also in other ACME-run activities and programmes.”
Prof Chibita’s sentiments were echoed by Ms Nicole Bjerler, Head of Facility at the Democratic Governance Facility.
Bjerler called on newsrooms across the country to accord more opportunities to women journalists to expand their reporting portfolios and to participate in covering male-dominated beats.
“At times they are relegated to ‘women’s issues affairs’ when they can do an equally good job on more mainstream issues,” she observed.
Adding, “We applaud your efforts, and look forward to even more inclusion and participation of women in next year’s event.”
The female prize winners were:
Ms Betty Amamukirori, Breaking News
Ms Amamukirori of New Vision won the Breaking News award for her news series – Armed gangs in Kween forcibly mutilating girls.
Breaking News, a new category in the awards recognises skills in storytelling, substance, and completeness in covering an unanticipated, unplanned, or developing news event.
It celebrates not only the ability of journalists to report under the pressure of deadlines but in subsequent days, their ability to sustain reporting that illuminates issues pertinent to the original event in a manner that provides context and depth.
Only three entries were submitted for competition in this category. The judges observed that Ms Amamukirori journalist reported comprehensively on one of Uganda’s most persistent open dirty secrets.
“By presenting a multiplicity of voices on the issue, the journalist gave agency to a community whose views on their culture are often overlooked, and provided a platform for a solutions-focused debate that will serve the country for years to come,” said the judges in their report.
Ms Amamukirori also won the Justice, Law and Order Reporting award for the story ‘Officials turn courts into corruption dens’, which she co-authored with her colleagues; Edward Muhumuza, Obeid Lutale and Patrick Tumwesigye.
Ms Leah Kahunde, Health reporting
Ms Kahunde of Radio One FM 90, won the health reporting award for the story ‘Unsafe and sorry’. Competition in this category was high with mere points differentiating the scores. The judges noted that this was a mark of quality and they look forward to even better performance of all health stories next year.
Ms Kahunde’s submission was singled out for its compassionate and effective storytelling that humanised a complex health issue.
Ms Culton Scovia Nakamya, Local reporting
Ms Nakamya of BBS Terefayina won the local reporting award for her story ‘Mothers at risk as water crisis cripples Nakaseke Hospital’.
The local reporting category recognises the work of reporters outside Kampala who provide a clear understanding of events, issues and politics of importance to their towns, districts or regions. All shortlisted entries were praised for demonstrating excellence and versatility in covering local issues from a local angle.
The topicality of Ms Nakamya’s story demonstrated her knowledge and understanding of local issues. “It is a compelling narrative characterised by strong writing, good use of anecdotes and captivating descriptions,” the judges noted.
Ms Nakamya congratulated fellow women who won prizes at the gala. “I believe that we are all winners and there is a need for us to do better as advised by the judges. We will try our best to improve on the gaps.”
Ms Cecilia Okoth, Explanatory reporting
The New Vision reporter was first runner up in the Explanatory Reporting category for the three-part story on systemic corruption in the national identity card project. She shared the award with her colleagues Benjamin Ssebaggala, Paul Lubwama and Ismail Nsubuga.
The shortlisted stories in the Explanatory Reporting category were distinguished from the pack because of the manner in which significant and complex matters of national importance were illuminated. Judges noted that all finalists demonstrated mastery of subjects, sourcing expertise, lucid writing and clear presentation.
Speaking to ACME after the awards gala, Ms Okoth hailed ACME for carrying on with the spirit of recognising the work of journalists. “The awards are inspiring for most of us and point us to what we can do better.”
Lillian Namusoke Magezi, Data Journalism
Ms Magezi of the New Vision was runner-up in the Data Journalism category for her story ‘Balancing chores: Men need to take part’. Hers was a tie with Isaac Khisa of The Independent magazine for the story ‘Across Africa, tech-enabled micro insurance is the next big thing’.
The judging panel noted that while data journalism is a new field of reporting in Uganda, only a few journalists have shown interest in exploring and exploiting the opportunities it brings. Fewer entries were submitted for competition in this category than in previous years. Nevertheless, those shortlisted deserved the high marks they were given by the panel.
Ms Patience Ahimbisibwe, National News (print)
Ms Ahimbisibwe was the second runner-up for the National News Reporting (Print) award for the story ‘1,000 weddings at city church declared illegal’.
Her story was distinguished for its outstanding, eye-opening, and thorough reporting on a national affair with significant impact across the country.
Joan Akello, National News Reporting – Broadcast
Ms Akello of Uganda Radio Network was second runner-up for the National News Reporting (Broadcast) award, for the story, ‘Over 100 MPs listed as perpetual absentees in Parliament’.
Shortlisted entries for the national news reporting categories for both print and broadcast are distinguished for outstanding, eye-opening, and thorough reporting on national affairs with significant impact across the country.
The Uganda National Journalism Awards were supported by the Democratic Governance Facility.