Senior editors from the country’s major media houses and other industry players have endorsed a proposal to form an association of editors and content managers in Uganda as part of efforts to strengthen professionalism and promote self-regulation.
according to a statement released by the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), the group, which met in Lugogo, Kampala, on Friday also elected an interim executive committee to steer the association through its formative stages.
It includes Mr Daniel Kalinaki, the General Manager, Editorial at Nation Media Group Uganda, Mr David Mukholi, the Managing Editor (Editorial) of Vision Group, Ms. Joyce Bagala, the Head of News at NBS TV, Mr Alex Atuhaire, the Editorial Director of the online PML Daily, Ms Sylvia Nankya, an editor at the Uganda Radio Network, and Mr Pius Katunzi Muteekani of The Observer.
The statement noted that the committee will oversee the drafting, consideration and adoption of a constitution and other foundational documents, as well as the election of a substantive executive by the end of April 2019.
“This is an important step in self-organisation and professionalisation in the media industry,” said Dr Peter Mwesige, executive director of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), and national facilitator for the International Training Programme (ITP) on Media Self Regulation in a Democratic Framework. The ITP is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
“We must check our own conduct and enforce our own ethics in order to make a credible case for self-regulation,” said Mr. Kalinaki, the interim chairperson of the executive committee. “Our job is to build a framework that defends media freedoms while ensuring responsibility and professional conduct.”
The Uganda team of participants on the ITP came up with the proposal to form a forum or association of editors and content managers. It includes Ms. Barbara Kaija, Editor-in-Chief of Vision Group, Hon. Paul Amoru Omiat (Dokolo North), who is also chairperson of the Uganda Parliamentary Form on Media, Mr. Adolf Mbaine, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Journalism & Communication at Makerere University. Others are Ms. Rose Mary Kemigisha, Senior Human Rights Officer/Editor at the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Mr. Abudu-Sallam Waiswa, Head of Legal at Uganda Communications Commission, and Mr. Peter Okello Jabweli, a lawyer and member of the Media Council of Uganda.
In her introductory remarks, Ms. Kaija said the purpose of the forum was to “create a common voice for editors” who “share the same vision to be the eyes, ears and voices” of the public. She added that it would help restore professionalism and credibility in the media.
Reading from a concept note on the formation of the association, Dr Mwesige said, “The association would not only promote and guard journalistic standards”, it would also work towards the safety of all journalists.
According to the Uganda ITP team, the failure of previous attempts at self-regulation has left the doors open to statutory regulation, which makes the industry vulnerable to control by the government and owners.
Regulatory challenges were blamed on weak journalists’ associations; disunity and lack of cohesion in the industry; weak regulatory frameworks open to political and other forms of interference; inadequate transparency from media regulators; low levels of media literacy; and “media owners who (pay more attention) “to the bottom line than to journalism’s public interest mission”.
Failure at self-organisation was in turn blamed for “weakened professional fellowship”, a “regulatory vacuum that has exacerbated unprofessionalism and lack of accountability amongst media practitioners” as well as “loss of public trust and confidence in the media”.