safety reporting

UNESCO, Police tip journalists on safety reporting

(Last Updated On: 19 January 2024)

Kampala I Uganda’s journalists and media staff across the country have encountered brutalities orchestrated by State security officers, including by non-state perpetrators.

In the recently released Press Freedom Index 2023 by Reporters Without Borders, Uganda has plunged 133 from 132. Read the full Report here.

A number of journalists have been beaten and left with injuries, especially when they were covering protests and elections. Although there seems to be a commitment from the government to ensure that freedom of the press is guaranteed and that media as a whole is given unrestricted space to operate, journalists have been tipped and advised never to take chances.

Rosie Agoi, the Secretary-General of Uganda National Commission for UNESCO said under communication and information, one of the objectives UNESCO have is the safety of journalists and the end of impunity against journalists.

“As National Commission for UNESCO, we are simply ensuring that journalists do the right thing and throughout the training, it has been about the UN Plan of Action that identifies the areas of safety and how journalists should conduct themselves and throughout the training, we actually agreed that journalists should steer away from trouble, they should report objectively, they should report sensitively.

“The other side where we have, of course, Lawmakers, they should also understand the roles of journalists in their way of work, in their reporting. If they understand why they report, then we shall appreciate that their jobs are sensitive. But as we understand them as Lawmakers, we should find a way of helping them deal with circumstances that endanger them. For example, how do we identify a journalist in a crisscross war? How do we ensure that we give them the correct path, the soft path and make them not be harmed?” she said.

The Secretary-General, Rosie, was part of the meeting held on August 3, 2023, that discussed “Safety of Journalists, Promotion of Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and how to fight impunity,” among others.

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She added: “So, both parties have a big role to play in ensuring safety and I would want to believe that this training has been very beneficial and that gradually even the journalists who find themselves in this profession when they are not trained – they will have some professionalism and as a National Commission for UNESCO, we pledge that we shall have continuous training so that either party know their roles and that we shall have safe journalists doing the right jobs, at the right time in the right places.”

Police message to journalists

Meanwhile, at the same event, journalists were advised on how to cover protests and how their safety should be paramount. SP Nankinga Mary, head (PRO) Social Media Unit at Uganda Police, said journalists and police are the “foot soldiers in the field”.

“I advise them to always be on the right side but being on the right side means you also have to be easily identified. Being identifiable, where is your ID? Put on the jacket. I advise media owners and directors to make sure that the journalists have jackets that can easily identify them even from far and this will help us.

“Also, there must be harmonized communication when you are in the field. Let the journalists approach in a good way because those times are bad, especially the riots but when you approach and look for protection and where you can cover the story from, you get it from the protectors’ side and that is from the security forces and we are here to see that we work together.

“We have come up with win-win guidelines for elections coverage and also we want to see all that even in crisis reporting, we want to see that even in other avenues like the riots,” SP Nankinga said.

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Uganda Journalists Union, Stephen Ouma Bwire says some journalists are partisan. “They would like to cover elections or campaigns when they have their own political affiliations.

“We as players in the safety of journalists are appealing to them – ‘declare your conflict of interest early enough’ so that when you are covering a politician or a political party, he or she knows that you belong to a political party X,” Ouma said.

Read our full interview with Ouma here.

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