By Loyce Kyogabirwe |
As society’s watchdog, the media plays the important role of documenting people, events and developments for purposes of public informing the public. This includes the task of educating and mobilising communities through their content. However, there is a growing concern whether the media is playing these roles to its full extent including in promoting good governance and public accountability at community levels.
As such, on April 24-25, 2018, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in partnership with the Kasese District Local Government E- Society Centre hosted a two-day training workshop for journalists working in the Kasese district of western Uganda. The training equipped journalists with skills on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to support their reporting on service delivery and public accountability issues affecting the district. The workshop was attended by 16 journalists (four female and 12 male) from seven media houses, namely Light FM, Guide Radio, Radio Messiah, Ngeya FM, Daily Monitor, NTV and TV West.
In his opening remarks, the district’s Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (ACAO) Wilson Asaba, highlighted the role of media as an important link between government and citizens.. He also noted the role the media plays in amplifying community issues to duty bearers, stating that this has helped the duty bearers to execute their mandate. However, he added, more still needs to be done to ensure fair and balanced reporting.
The workshop entailed discussions to identify community governance issues and how these relate to the different administrative structures and duty bearers at local and national level.
Further, this was followed by journalists developing story ideas pertaining to the various issues identified, which included the plight of widows and orphans following the attack on the Rwenzururu Palace on allegations that the sub-region’s king was involved in subversive activities, land conflicts between the Basongora community who are cattle keepers and Bakonzo who are cultivators, the dilapidated health facilities such as the Muhokya Health Centre III which has developed cracks posing a threat to patients as well as the sub-standard meat locally referred to as ‘Sanga Meat’ which reportedly comes from the neighbouring cattle-keeping districts of Kiruhura and Mbarara. Following identification of story ideas, the journalists explored how to better pitch stories for publication and airing on television or radio.
Alongside story development was discussion on the role that ICT plays in the media – particularly online platforms that seek to increase citizens’ access to information, social accountability and transparency in government operations. Reference was made to platforms run by the Kasese District Local Government E-Society Resource Centre which also serves as the district ICT hub and a facility for citizens to access information on local governance and service delivery. The centre runs several digital platforms which include the District Website, the District Online Discussion Group and other government programmes such as wealth creation are shared, and the District Blog which features general news items and events in the district.
Online portals which serve at a national level were also explored including the public information request platform AskyourGov, and Know your Budget which aims at promoting transparency and accountability in the use of public funds by allowing users to access and give feedback on the government budgets performance.
At the core of these platforms at both a district and national level is the pursuit of increased access to information for citizens. Many journalists noted that despite the presence of the Access to Information Act (2005), there continued to be bureaucratic restrictions on information access and dissemination.
Indeed, access to information restrictions were among the concerns raised during the training..
This activity was part of the ICT4Dem in East Africa Network initiative aimed at promoting public accountability and transparency using a mix of ICT tools and traditional media.
By Loyce Kyogabirwe |