By Peter Sebulime
Journalists in Uganda early this week acquired training on how to operate hand in hand with government agencies and authorities during the execution of their duties.
During the training that was organized by CoST Uganda, a local Non-governmental Organisation (NGO), government spokesperson Ofono Opondo, who is also the Executive Director of the Uganda Media Centre (UMC), asked journalists to understand that they and government agencies all serve one person; the citizens of Uganda, who expect a good job from the media.
He stated that “Most media houses in Uganda are small, private and not willing to put investments in investigative journalism, which has affected both the media industry and government at large.”
This during an engagement meeting between media and government agencies organized by CoST Uganda dealing with delivery information regarding infrastructural development in the country.
He advised that the Media fraternity should be patiently working to dig out details so that they can disseminate information that will not be questioned. He urged scribe to have analytical and organized minds, be meticulous in their work and to avoid being driven by hate or the personalities they engage or meet with during the course of their work.
Opondo said that “Road construction alone takes 40% of the national budget. Defense is the third spender in the sector. As the fourth estate, we want to do a good job on reporting about this and much more so that nobody uses any excuse to downplay the role of the media.”
He also added that “All of us need to appreciate that we serve one person, the citizens of Uganda, who expect a good job from us. CoST has gained a good reputation and therefore can access some information. So it is one good source of correct information for infrastructure projects. CoST is in Uganda permanently and it should be a good reliable source of information in the sector.”
Opondo revealed that the Ministry of Works and Transport is another good source for journalists for reliable information.
He noted that there should be entrenched networks in the Ministry of Finance.
“The media should have an ability to work discreetly on a story, maintaining secure lines of communications with their contacts. The media should not do investigative journalism to embarrass people or a shame but to unearth a wrong doing and propose measures to addressing it,” Opondo advised.
He went on to reveal that “It is true there are disconnections amongst government institutions; but the journalists should be able to investigate why the disconnections exist. Could it be because of corruption, poor or lack of timely planning? There is need to understand and appreciate the landscape, geographical location of projects among others.”
He added that “The media should know how to report on each sector; for example, the Energy sector and the challenges it encounters in project delivery. The media should be knowledgeable, systematic and should not be taken by social media winds.
They need to have ethics, honesty, should be watchdogs and key at defending national interests.”
The Media Centre boss advised that “Take reasonable risks that will not subject you and your family to danger or associated challenges because of your work. Journalists are also advised not to use malice in developing their stories. They should study and make a plan, budget for their assignments.”
Hon Nathan Byanyima, the chairman CoST Uganda, in his opening remarks, said government agencies must give information in a simple way so that they can understand all projects running.
He attacked members of the press who report negatively about government, saying this is because most of them don’t create sources and networks with government authorities and private sectors.
In his statement presented by the assistant commissioner in the ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and National Guidance Jonah Jackson Bakalikwira, the state minister for ICT Peter Ogwang said that the general public is mandated to access information from all agencies.
He warned government officials who prohibit journalists from accessing their offices for information on various issues that they are enemies of the state.
The training session was also graced by among others, Susan Kataike, the principal communications officer at the ministry of works and transport, and Emmanuel Ainebyona the senior communications officer at the ministry of health, who tipped journalists on ways of conducting investigative reporting.