“In 2009, we had a situation where there were riots in Kampala because the news stations were irresponsible, telling people that they should go out in the streets and fight,” said David Mukholi. He is managing editor of Vision Group, Uganda’s largest media group, which includes the New Vision newspaper and a number of radio and television networks. “Most of the presenters and reporters in Uganda are not trained. They go on the air and start talking, taking positions and using zero objectivity.”
Thus far, the Project Consolidating Peace Journalism is up and running at 14 stations across Uganda, with a concentration along the northern and western borders, and another eight stations are on a waiting list. Last month, the group visited the University of Beni in eastern DRC to introduce the program to local radio stations there. The program was supposed to begin in South Sudan this month but has been put on hold temporarily until renewed fighting dies down.
Even Rwanda is reconciling with its dark past, embarking on a number of conflict-sensitive journalism training initiatives itself. In 2009, Valerie Bemeriki, the voice of RTLM, was sentenced to life in prison after admitting she played a role in inciting violence with her calls to battle, and several RTLM executives have been handed stiff penalties by the UN’s Rwanda tribunal.
“There are many inexperienced journalists out there who fuel conflict,” Sentamu-Masagazi said. “Training is essential for us if we plan to move forward.”
The author is a 2014 Fellow for the International Center for Journalists in Uganda.