The current context of issues and challenges facing the media in the country suggest that the industry may not be ready to regulate itself, news editors have said.
Instead, journalists need to get ‘organised, defined and known’ if they are to be taken seriously, according to Mr Pius Mutekani Katunzi, the Managing Director of the Observer Newspaper.
Katunzi was speaking during a discussion on key issues in the media industry, including regulation and media freedoms organised by the Uganda Editors’ Guild in partnership with the Media Focus on Africa (MFA) last week.
The dialogue was supported by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and was one of a series of activities building up to the Uganda Media Week that will take place later in the year.
“Journalism is the only profession in Uganda or one of those bodies that want to be a profession that is not defined, it’s so disorganised and in a way the state and other players have taken advantage of that,” Katunzi said in response to a key note address by Dr. Adolf Mbaine, a lecturer from the Journalism School at Makerere University.
Dr. Mbaine pointed out that the media needed to self-organize, if the industry was to present a credible case for self-regulation. He also expounded on the concept of self-regulation, a popular subject in the media industry circles in Uganda, pointing out its benefits and its dangers as well.
But seasoned journalist Barbara Among argued that to propose self-regulation is putting the cart before the horse.
“In order for self-regulation to work we need three things, maturity, civility, and respect for colleagues and the general public…. Are we ready for it? No, not at the moment!” she said, instead suggesting that co-regulation was a better option to pursue.
Daniel Kalinaki, the General Manager, Editorial at the Nation Media Group noted that the media needed to pay attention to the political economy, and other industry ethical issues which was its biggest threat at the moment. Kalinaki, who is also the Interim Chairman of the Uganda Editor’s Guild unveiled considerations for working together through the senior editors to tackle media issues, and influence policy.
“We need to find our own home grown solutions. I agree generally that we are not ready for self-regulation but not that we are not ready to develop a self-regulation mechanism. This is probably one of the few times where you have editors sitting in a room to have a conversation about the industry, this in itself is revolutionary and commendable,” he said.
The Editorial Director of online platform www.pmldaily.com (PML Daily) Alex B. Atuhaire, who moderated the event pointed out that while there is a consensus that it is not yet time for self- regulation, there is need for the media to be more organized to work closely in order to achieve its goals and protect its interests.
The Uganda Editors’ Guild, now in its interim period, is expected to be officially launched by World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2020.
According to Ms Jan Ajwang Programme Manager, Media Focus on Africa, The National Media Week- seeks to bring different stakeholders, like the media, academia, civil society, government representatives to a consensus about key challenges facing the media and to agree on realistic and practical solutions to address them. Through the dialogues a specific topic is identified and extensively discussed as participants regardless of their different views on the matter work towards identifying the real problems and agreeing on the most viable ways forward to address them.
Donnas Ojok- Programme Manager, Konrad Adenuer Stiftung (KAS), said his organisation has been supporting various media initiatives in Uganda for many years. However, recently focusing on non- traditional media like Social Media.
‘We have often found that Social Media doesn’t exist independent of the mainstream and traditional media and find the need to continue supporting mainstream media,” he said.
More dialogues will be held ahead of the National Media Week.