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access to information Conference Journalist security

JMIC holds discussions with a team from Uganda

By: Gerald Walulya  

The Chief Executive of Journalism & Media International Centre, Oona Solberg last week held a productive engagement with representatives of the Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University in Uganda.  

The two representatives included, Dr. Aisha Nakiwala Sembatya, the Head of the Department of Journalism and Communication and Dr. Gerald Walulya, the coordinator of JMIC activities in Uganda and a Lecturer at the same institution.  

The two were in Oslo to participate in the 8th International Conference on Safety and Security of Journalists that is celebrated every at Oslomet in commemoration of the International Day to end impunity for crimes committed against journalists. 

Dr. Gerald Walulya to the left, Dr. Aisha Nakiwala Sembatya in the center and to the right Ellen Hofsvang, who is taking over as Project leader of JMIC in 2023 (Photo by: Oona Solberg).

The discussions focused on the evaluation of the five activities JMIC and the Department of Journalism and Communication have implemented in Uganda this year and plans for the next year. 

These activities included two trainings; one focusing on the safety and security of journalists and the other focusing on Access to Information. The other activities included organising a Rig on Press freedom and the celebration of the World Press Freedom Day on May 5 and the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) on September 28. 

Dr. Nakiwala commended the support that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given to her Department through JMIC. She said that her university remains committed to working with JMIC and Oslomet to further improve the skills and knowledge of journalists and journalism students in Uganda. 

JIMC Chief Executive, Oona Solberg commended the team from Makerere University for the effective utilisation of the support they receive from JMIC. 

Since 2017, JMIC has been working with the Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University in Uganda, to train journalists and journalism students in key emerging journalism challenges such as safety and security of Journalists and Access to Information.  

The cooperation between the two institutions has also focused on raising awareness on matters of press freedom and human rights through commemoration of important days such as the World Press Freedom Day and the International Day for Universal Access to Information. 

Categories
Human rights

Calls for more openness in government 

By Gerald Walulya

The Chairperson of Uganda Human Rights Commission, Ms. Mariam Wangadya has warned public officials against denying citizens access to information in possession of the state.  

While speaking during the celebration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) on 28. September 2022 at Makerere University in Uganda, Ms. Wangadya said that many public officials use the excuse of the Official Secrets Act to refuse journalists and citizens access to information in public bodies. 

The main speakers, panelists and organisers 28 September (Photo: David Matovu).

“I wish to implore public officials to end the practice of hiding behind the official secrets Act and Oaths of Secrecy to deny the media and the general public harmless information to which they are legitimately entitled,” she said. 

The Official Secrets Act is a law in Uganda that bars public official from disclosing information about the state that they get to know about in exercise of their duties. 

Ms. Wangadya said that, “The offices we occupy, we hold them in the public trust, so the citizens of Uganda are entitled to flash a torch into what we are doing and to judge us, whether we are serving them or not, and I think that transparency and accountability requires the public to get access to what we are doing in our offices. So denying the public information is inconsistent with those values of transparency and accountability.’’ 

While speaking at the same event, Dr. Nakiwala Aisha Sembatya, the Head of Department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University said that access to information is important for everyone because: “It is through this right that we are all able to access information from public bodies, which make it important for each one of us if we are to play an important role to the national and global development.” She commended the Journalism & Media International Centre for supporting the organisation of IDUAI celebration at Makerere University. 

Dr. Nakiwala Aisha Sembatya while speaking at the event (Photo: David Matovu).

Ms Rosemary Nasaba who spoke on behalf of the UNESCO Country Representative said that since IDUAI celebration started in 2016 it has provided an opportunity for spreading awareness on the need to expand laws related to information, their actual implementation to build inclusive institutions to access the world. “Today, ICTs such as Internet platforms and artificial intelligence are important enablers of this right. They can help bridge the digital divide by giving citizens access to tailor-made and accessible information that they can also ensure services that are more efficient. They can allow citizens to access public sector information and services nearer instantly, making government services digital hence enhancing transparency and accessibility.” She said. 

Ms. Nasaba, however, warned that these developments also raise questions about the fundamental rights, ethical use of artificial intelligence and e-governance by public institutions. “Since artificial intelligence uses citizens’ data, how do we protect the privacy of citizens? As you are aware, artificial intelligence can determine what information we access on which ethical principles is this determined? So it is important that stakeholders pay due attention, so that the use of e-governance and artificial intelligence builds trust, ensures inclusion, protects human rights, and ensures the participation of citizens.” 

UN Human Right Country Representative Ayeda Robert Kotchani (Photo: David Matovu).

The Country Representative of the UN Human Rights Office in Uganda, Mr. Ayeda Robert Kotchani, said at the same event that the lack of citizens access to information continues to hamper the realization of sustainable development in Africa. He said the growth of the Internet, its use and the emergency of new technologies have given access to information a renewed importance and greater scrutiny. “Technology and especially social media have been used to spread false information, unfortunately, either intentionally or unintentionally… IDUAI celebration reminds government of their duty to respect and to uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under article 19 of the universal declaration of human rights.” He said. 

Local media stories about IDUAI: 

https://www.independent.co.ug/uhrc-wants-provisions-used-to-deny-citizens-information-amended/

https://www.ntv.co.ug/ug/news/government-officials-hiding-vital-information-uhrc-3965974

https://www.shiftmedianews.com/uganda-marks-internation-day-for-universal-access-to-information/

Categories
Students Webinar

Ugandan students trained in Access to Information

Students have learned how to access information. PHOTO: Melanie Joyce.

By: Gerald Walulya

The Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University conducted a four day webinar on Access to information 15-18 August 2022. The webinar that was attended by 45 final year journalism students was supported by JMIC. 

While speaking at the opening of the webinar on Monday 15 August 2022, the Head of Department, Dr. Nakiwala Aisha Sembatya, noted that Access to Information is important because everything done in the field of journalism and communication rotates around information. “Access to information is important because information is the key ingredient of all the things that you are going to be doing. If you do not have access to information it means you will not be able to do the business we have trained you to do properly”, she said. 

Dr. Nakiwala said that trainings of this nature help to equip students to overcome barriers of accessing information. “We all know that the issue of access to information is a very critical one but is also very contentious because there are parties out there who may not want to make access to information as easy as we want to assume it should be. Trainings of this kind make you understand how to go about issues of access to information.” Dr. Nakiwala said. She commended JMIC for supporting Makerere University to offer these trainings. 

Dr. Ivan Lukanda instructing the last session. PHOTO: Melanie Joyce.

The webinar was facilitated by both local and international facilitators. Mr. Toby Mendel, the Executive Director of the Canada based Centre for Law and Democracy discussed the Global trends in access to information. Mr. Edwine Wanyama, the Legal Officer from The Collaboration of International ICT policy in East and Southern Africa discussed a local perspective on Access to Information laws in Uganda.  

Gilbert Sendugwa in Africa Freedom of Information Centre. PHOTO: Melanie Joyce.

Mr. Tarjei Leer-Salvesen, a Norwegian freelance journalist taught participants digital skills for accessing information. He demonstrated to participants how one can access information using online tools. Dr. Ivan Lukanda, a Lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University, took participants through procedures of accessing information in Uganda, using the Access to Information Act. At the end of the last session, participants were given application forms to go and make information requests in public institutions so that they can test the skills they acquired.  

Categories
Future of Media Journalist security Press freedom

UGANDA GOVERNMENT COMMITS TO PROMOTING PRESS FREEDOM 

Uganda’s Minister of Information, Communication Technology (ICT) Dr. Chris Baryomunsi has pledged government’s commitment to promote media freedom in Uganda.  

By: Gerald Walulya 

While speaking at the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day on May 5, 2022 in Kampala, Uganda, Baryomunsi said that the government has allowed “reasonable press freedom in Uganda.” 

“The position of government is that the media should be free. I have spoken in audiences of security and police officers and I have insisted that media practitioners should be given freedom and space to practice their profession,” Baryomunsi said before further pledging that: “As long as I am the minister in charge of information I will insist that the police and security have no right whatsoever to harass journalists as they do their work because media practice and journalism is a service like any other.” 

The Minister of Information Communication Technology, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi (center) handing over an award to Dr. Patricia Litho (second from left), the Board Chairperson of Uganda Media Women’s Association (Photo: Christopher Zziwa).

His comments came in the wake of increased attacks on journalists by the police and army that have left several journalists injured and their equipment destroyed. A press freedom index released recently by a local NGO, Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda shows that the Police and the army are the leading perpetuators of press freedom violations in Uganda. 

The recent attacks on journalists have seen Uganda’s 2022 ranking in the World Press Freedom index drop to 132 from 125 in the previous year.  

Baryomunsi acknowledged that media practitioners and journalists need to be supported and protected because they perform an important role in society. 

“We need to work together and we need to support journalists, to protect them but also most importantly to respect and appreciate that they are also doing their work,” he said. 

The keynote speaker, Robert Kabushenga advised journalists to change their mindset as well as retooling and reskilling themselves to fit in the new digital world. 

Mr. Robert Kabushenga, the former Managing Director of the State owned Vision group who was the keynote speaker (Photo: Christopher Zziwa).  

The commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day was supported by the Journalism & Media International Centre of Oslo Metropolitan University.  

Event youtube channel: 

Categories
Press freedom Students

THE RIG ON PRESS FREEDOM IN UGANDA 

By: Gerald Walulya

The Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University in Uganda has hosted a one week session of the Rig Press Freedom project. 

Some of the participants in The Rig on press freedom posing for pictures with some of their lecturers at the former faculty of arts building at Makerere University. (Photo: Sharon Muzaki)

The reporting on press freedom focused on five countries namely; Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Germany and Burundi. 

Thirty three final year journalism students participated in the project. They were divided into five groups, with each group focusing on one country. The five groups of students were supported by five local teachers and one support teacher, Dr. Florence Namasinga Selnes from Oslo Metropolitan University.  

Students of journalism at Makerere University attending a lecture about press freedom. The lecture, given by Florence Namasinga Selnes focused on the state of freedom of the press in the world in general and in Uganda in particular. (Photo: Sharon Muzaki)

The main task of the participating students was to write news stories on the media freedom environment in the assigned countries. The project started on Friday 22, April with a lecture to students and staff of Makerere University on Press Freedom that was given by Dr. Namasinga Selnes. 

According to the participants, the project has been very beneficial and full of experiences, making it a better orientation into the journalism practice. 

Some of our students discussing Rig stories. (Photo: Gerald Walulya)

“I have learnt how to report international stories. I have received exposure of how to relate with international sources, “Rehema Namagembe, one of the participants said. “My participation in the Rig has helped me to build confidence in interviewing people on phone and making thorough research on stories outside Uganda,” Daphine Nakabiri, said. Another participant, Gloria Irankunda said: “I got to know that media houses in most African countries operate under hardships in form of threats and physical assault.”  

The Head of Department of Journalism and Communication, Dr. Aisha Nakiwala spoke of the students experience with the Rig as enriching in terms of helping students to appreciate the press freedom environment in other countries.  

The project was sponsored by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Journalism & Media international Centre (JMIC) of Oslo Metropolitan University. This is the second time the Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University has hosted this project. The first Rig project was conducted in 2018. 

Categories
Journalist security Workshop

JMIC trains 49 journalism students in Uganda in safety

By Gerald Walulya, JMIC coordinator – Uganda.

The Journalism & Media International Center in conjunction with the Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University, Uganda have conducted a four-day webinar on safety and security of journalists.  

 JMIC  safety trainer Abeer Saady teaching.

The webinar was attended by 49 final year journalism students and early career journalists from Uganda. The training sessions that started on Monday, 7th March were concluded on 10th March, 2022.  

Dr. Ivan Lukanda spoke on behalf of the Head of Department

Dr. Ivan Lukanda, who spoke on behalf of the Head of Department, noted that the training is crucial for young journalists, because it enables them to know what to do when they are attacked so that they secure their safety. He commended JMIC for its continued support towards the Department that has enabled them to prepare their students. 

The webinar was facilitated by both local and international facilitators. Local facilitators included, Claire Muhindo, the online content manager of Africa Centre for Media Excellence, a local media support organisation and Tabu Butagira, the Managing Editor of Nation Media Group – Uganda.  

Other trainers included, Abeer Saady, a recognised safety trainer associated with Journalism & Media International Center and Marte Høiby, a Senior Research Scientist at SINTEF Digital, Norway. 

Marte Høiby is a Senior Research Scientist at SINTEF.

Claire Muhindo told participants that journalists should be cautious of their safety digitally, physically and other aspects, because unsafe journalists cannot tell good stories. 

Muhindo advised participants to always backup their data, avoid opening emails from untrusted sources, distancing themselves from usage of public Wi-Fi, noting that doing so exposes their accounts to hackers.  

Tabu Butagira shared with participants his safety and security experience as a journalist in Uganda. He warned participants against sharing a lot of information about their lives and family on social media platforms because this information can be used by wrong elements to their disadvantage.  

“Nothing posted on the digital platforms that cannot be accessed, if wanted. If you don’t want to be recorded anywhere, don’t write. People put [photo] albums on their social media platforms, hence leaving digital footprints.” Butagira said. 

“You will never know when you will write a story that will put you into trouble. Always ask yourself if what you are putting on your social media is the right information, and what are the risks? You will see no danger to upload anything, until the danger comes, and it will be too late.” He warned.  

Abeer Saady took participants through a host of issues related to safety and security including, risk management and safety planning while working in hostile environments,  situational awareness and ethical dilemmas related to safety and security.  

Jill Ainebyoona, an early career journalist who was one of the participants said that the webinar had polished his knowledge about safety and security. 

“The workshop has opened my eyes about the danger of exposing ourselves through what we post [on social media] and I will continue distancing myself from that practice,” he said. 

Susan Nakangwe, another participant said “As a result of the webinar training, I’m in position to protect myself in case of a crisis. I would know when to step aside as well as when to approach the crowd to pick key information. Also, I learnt the essence of wearing protective gear while reporting.”