Top human rights journalists from Uganda visited the African Media Initiative’s headquarters in Nairobi as part of an East African peer exchange exercise aimed at building synergies between Ugandan journalists and media organizations.
The one-week program was organized by the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-U) under the theme “Upholding journalists’ rights in Uganda through legal, electoral and governance empowerment”. As Uganda prepares for its general election to be held in 2016, the journalists were keen to exchange ideas with colleagues in Kenya, civil society as well as other institutions involved in the electoral process.
Kenya held its general election in 2013 amidst fears that the country might experience another spate of post-election violence as witnessed during the 2007 elections. The Kenyan media was largely credited with playing a part in ensuring that the elections were conducted in a peaceful manner.
However, the media also received criticism for what may saw as self-censorship aimed at maintaining peace in the country, at the expense of truth and democracy. The Ugandan delegation therefore sought to find out any key lessons learnt by their Kenyan counterparts on electoral coverage, as well as best practices on election monitoring.
The delegation comprised Ugandan journalists Julius Esegu (Board Chair, HRNJ-U); Moses Magoola (Programmes Manager); Ssempala Robert (National Coordinator); Enid Ninsiima (correspondent, Daily Monitor); Francis Tumwekwasize, (AFPTV); Sadab Kitatta (The Observer); Ernest Wisdom Kiyonga (NTV Uganda); Bahati Remmy (NBS Television); Mulindwa Mukasa (stringer APTN) and Emmanuel Magambo (Media Officer, HRNJ-U).
Programmes manager Magoola noted: ‘’Kenya has made a lot of strides and we feel there is much to learn from their experience in covering hotly contested elections. Mistakes made during the 2007 elections informed the Kenyan media’s coverage of the 2013 elections, and those are the experiences that we hope our peers will share with us.”
AMI CEO Eric Chinje urged the journalists to strive to make meaningful contributions to Africa’s development agenda. He noted that the African Media Initiative was working to reposition the continent’s media as an intrinsic part of development efforts. “When you focus on driving the development agenda, your coverage of all issues, including elections, will be more meaningful as it will be guided by your efforts to make the continent a better place,” he told the team.
The delegation also met with the Media Council of Kenya, the National Police Spokesperson, HIVOS East Africa, and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders.
HRNJ-U is a national network of journalists and media practitioners. Its mandate is to protect and promote media freedoms and the rights of journalists through advocacy, capacity building, legal defence, documentation and research. The Network has laboured to agitate for a suitable working environment in which journalists and media can thrive as a way of contributing to an improved environment of freedom of expression and fundamental human rights that are key principles of democracy and good governance.