There has been a lot of ongoing debate in the country about the situation of journalists in Uganda. Top on the list of the discussion has been on the poor pay, exploitation and intimidation that has in turn threatened the true meaning of journalism.
The worst affected are supposedly reporters who do a lot of the donkey work, risk at the front line to dig deeper about stories and yet walk home with peanuts to sustain themselves.
With some newsroom paying as little as 5000/= per story, the struggled to file more than one story has outrun the value needed in a story and because of editorial pressure, frontline journalists are more concerned about hitting the target but not the quality of the stories submitted to editors for final publication. There is more to quantity than quality and that seems to rule the game.
But journalists have been urged to wake up and fight for their freedom and stop pretending with a majority locked up in the racket of survival for the fittest characterized by low pay, working under pressure, intimidation and for the ladies being sexually harassed by their male supervisors.
Whereas the international press freedom day takes precedent under the theme of ‘Journalism without fear or favour” key media managers in Uganda are seeking to reshape the debate around journalism in a live tweet chat.
However, the challenges of such events has always been to account for an action but with no impact. Powerful speakers are lined up to spark the motion but more than often they are powerless and also just employed by the power that be “proprietors” who make final decision on the future of their ventures.
For instance, to discuss a befitting wage and advocate for a conducive work environment for all journalists in the country, a concerted effort by all players in the field is needed. This must go beyond panel discussion and rather continue to lobby and engage entities like National Association of Broadcasters with majority of these media proprietors, Government regulatory bodies, policy makers, donors and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) with a bias in media development work as well as reporters so as to take on this debate heads on.
Short of that, the impression created through staged events to be seen as working for a common good of journalists in the country will lag on as the profession continues to be chained to death, just like NIJU, the body of journalism established by the act of Parliament that died on its arrival.
This implies that Uganda has not any professional body tasked with issuance of minimum guidelines for entry and exit in the profession thus the mushrooming number of quacks.
To outshine their passion, a few journalists have upheld the game and remained authentic by thinking hard, inventing, planning and moving on to build their career further to outmatch the standard and avoid being in the loop of quacks per se.
The game changer for journalists seeking to strive in this game is one find a niche. You need to find a topic and build your expertise and become a reference point. By doing so you will have full control over your work and not be seen as a jack of all trades and master of none because your lost chasing everything and yet you have nothing substantive to present.
That said, you will need additional marketable skills say in photography, graphic design and video editing to stand out in the crowd.
Next on is value addition, you have to attach cost value to your work with close look on the time spent and expenses incurred in offsetting the production including airtime, data, food and on ground travel.
Newsroom continues to expand everyday with people who are willing to work for less or no pay at all but rather get their byline, face on the screen and voice on air but it’s good enough to have freedom and command on what you report.
Article by Pat Robert Larubi- an independent investigative journalist, special features TV News producer, Lifestyle and travel photographer. A re-known blogger and award-winning disability rights activist who has been covering a number of issues around health and disability including the situation of persons with albinism through Pats Journal – Ultimate Albinism Voice Magazine. I Email: email@example.com I Tel: +256-782-745-292.