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Religious leaders, CSOs tell journalists “don’t fuel conflict, build bridges”

Rev Nelly Nelsons Otto who presented a paper on peace journalism tasked journalists to stick to news values by avoiding distortion of photos/videos, audios, to present a lopsided article.

Issa Kirarira speaking to journalists during the seminar.

Last Updated on: 2nd October 2022, 11:16 am

30 journalists attended the seminar in which they were told to use their radio stations, social media platforms to build bridges.

By Nelly Otto

Jinja – Oct. 2, 2022: Religious and Civil Society Organization leaders have cautioned journalists against using their platforms to broadcast reckless and sensational reporting on the airwaves.

They noted that the media can play positive roles in conflict prevention and peace building – as information provider, watchdog, diplomat, and bridge builder but is prone to manipulation and abuse by some elements.

This was during a one-day media seminar to mark this year’s International Day of Peace celebrated every year on 21 September held at the Committee Room, Jinja City Hall.

The seminary under the theme: “End Racism, Build Peace” was organized by Uganda Environmental and Gender Journalists Organization (UNEGEJO), an indigenous CBO in conjunction with Nile Dialogue Platform (NDP), a not-for-profit charity NGO.

“… It can help change attitudes and behaviors away from violence and toward peace, and from polarization to positive relationships, so do not allow yourselves or the media organizations to be compromised…” the Secretary General of NDP Issa Nyende Kiraria appealed.

Kirarira told the 30 participants that conflict prevention and peace building practitioners need to identify their specific goals and target audiences and use the media to sell new ideas and behaviors.

Uganda’s Deputy Head of Mission to Qatar Hajji Mohammed Baswari Kezaala noted with concern that more often some overzealous religious leaders have stirred the society by misrepresentation of scriptural texts.

Kezaala whose main credentials are drawn from his huge political store from the youth politics of DP’s Uganda Young Democrats (UYD), Jinja Central Division chairman, Jinja Mayor and National chairman DP says the media can build or destroy a community.

“…most of the religious conflicts were triggered by men who lifted certain texts either the Holy Quran or Bible out of context to justify their egocentric ideas and beliefs…,” he said.

The Coordinator for the Justice and Peace Commission at Jinja Catholic Diocese Rev Fr Peter Mubiru stunned the journalists by saying that 99.9% of the world’s problems are caused by religions.

The professional teacher-turned-priest says there were so many grave mistakes being made by preachers and followers in the name of religion which he aptly termed as man-made things.

He reminded the scribes drawn from both the print and electronic media against allowing Satan to hijack the airwaves to distort the peace and tranquility given by God to humanity.

“…you must reject propaganda from any source instead seek balanced, factual information from multiple sources since there can be more than just two sides and instead seek to illuminate complexity and grey areas…,” Fr Mubiru who also heads Itanda parish appealed.

The UNEGEJO Coordinator, Rev Nelly Nelsons Otto who presented a paper on peace journalism tasked reporters to stick to news values by avoiding distortion of photos/videos, audios, to present a lopsided article.

“…always ensure you secure alternative voices in your reportage and fact-check all the facts, always be impartial and capture a variety of perspectives to be able to keep communities solid…,” Rev Otto who also heads the Marketing, Research and Public Relations at Kiira FM 88.6 in Jinja.

Journalists should also be mindful of the language they use in their reporting, and how it can contribute to pre-emption, containment and de-escalation of conflict. They must use appropriate language and avoid manipulative and subjective language. Avoid bias and pandering to partisan interests and care about the welfare of people.

Journalists must avoid profanity, hate speech [and misinformation, and] treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect. Never treat sources as a means to an end.

Deputy Head of Mission in Qatar (Doha) Hajji Mohammed Baswari Kezaala speaks to journalists at the same event.

The International Day of Peace began on the 21st of September 1981 and was organized by the United Nations General Assembly. Its purpose is to ‘provide a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace’.

Each event has a different theme. For example, in 2020, the theme was ‘Shaping Peace Together’, whilst in 2021 the theme was ‘Recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable World’.

For International Day of Peace 2022, the theme is ‘End Racism. Build Peace’. The United Nations state that this is a date dedicated to strengthening the ideals of peace through a non-violent period of a 24-hour cease-fire.

The United Nations also wants to address hate speech and violence directed at racial minorities. They aim to speak out against hate speech and promote a message of anti-racism through education.

Why is it important? 

Peace means freedom from disturbance; a time of tranquility when you are not disturbed by anyone or anything. Peace involves understanding each other and working together to find solutions to problems.

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