"Some journalists do not have the skills-set to detect a human rights issue and report it correctly"
Journalists who attended the Media Excellence training on human rights and access to justice at Imperial Royale Hotel on July 11, 2019. Photo by Nancy Nanyonga
A section of journalists in Uganda have conceded that they are finding hardships reporting issues of human rights and access to justice.
They are now seeking capacity building opportunities on human rights and access to justice reporting.
“Journalists are failing to understand what a human right is. They do not have the skills-set to detect a human rights issue and report it correctly,” said Samuel Nabwiso, a journalist with the East African business week.
He said there is need for both in-house and external training offered to budding journalists to develop skills on human rights reporting.
He also proposed the development of a new curriculum for journalists on human rights and access to justice, so as to enrich their knowledge base.
Nabwiso was speaking to the New Vision on the sidelines of a half day media training organised by the Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) on human rights and access to justice at Imperial Royale Hotel on Thursday.
Abubaker Muhammed Zirabamuzale, a journalist formerly with NTV, said that the training should also be extended to editors, noting that most of them have no knowledge on access to justice, especially for minority groups.
He noted that this has seen many half-baked often incorrect stories ending up published because editors, who have no knowledge of the concepts, end at correcting only grammatical errors.
“Editors should be able to question some of these stories to ensure they have context and background. They should be able to go beyond grammatical errors,” he said.
His remarks came after, trainers exposed journalists to half-baked human rights stories and stories on access to justice for minority groups. The journalists who were allowed to critic the stories were horrified to learn that such stories slipped through the critical eyes of the editors.
The training was facilitated by Shiela Muwanga, the deputy executive director Foundation for Human Rights Initiative and Apolo Kakaire, a communications specialist from ACME.
The journalists’ remarks were also prompted by Kakaire’s call for in-depth reporting and analysis on human rights issues and a shift to narrative writing from episodic stories. He also reminded them of their roles as journalists.
Caroline Obbo, from the Rule of Law and Democratic Governance firm, also had lamented about journalist’s inability to think critically and pose the right questions during interviews.
She wondered why most senior journalists have failed to graduate from strait-jacket reporting to more analytical and explanatory journalism.
Muwanga told journalists to stick to specialties (beats) they are good at instead of being a jack of all trades.
She also advised them to read beyond what they report and take on online courses on writing and critic thinking.
However, journalists said media houses do not give them the opportunity to do beat reporting. They said the media houses have turned them into general field reporters, making them cover beats they do not have knowledge of.
They also raised issues of media ownership which have made them self-censor their stories.