By Alex Baluku
One hundred Journalists working with radio, print, electronic and online and Social Media influencers from Rwenzori sub-region have been trained in peace journalism and conflict sensitive reporting.
The training was conducted under ‘‘Peace Journalism in Rwenzori Region’’ project being implemented in the region by Rwenzori Media Development Foundation. The two double training equipped journalists and social media influencers with conflict sensitive reporting skills to enable them report in a manner that promotes and builds peace in the region and the country at large. The first training was conducted from Fort-Portal Tourism City between 23rd and 24th and another in Kasese between 26th and 27th May 2022.
Over the years, the Rwenzori sub-region has experienced a series of violent conflicts. The raid of the Rwenzururu Kingdom in November 2016 and the subsequent jailing of its King Charles Wesley Mumbere Ire-Ma-Ngoma left scores dead and dozens more injured. A number of kingdom loyalists who were arrested are still under detention pending trial.
As the region gradually recovers from this latest violence, it is important that stories of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and justice are well told.
According to Martin Kibaba, the Executive Director, Rwenzori Media Development Foundation, when stories of community peace-building and reconciliation efforts are told, it would inspire other communities to undertake similar peace and reconciliation programs.
Kibaba says throughout the region, there are a number of local peace-building and reconciliation efforts, but they are hardly reported saying that by reporting such efforts, Peace Journalists will help create an enabling socio-political environment for conflict transformation processes to take root in Rwenzori region. He revealed that the region needs more trusted voices to speak out for peace and reconciliation more than ever before.
Speaking at the opening of the second training at White House Hotel in Kasese town, the Rwenzururu Kingdom Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Joseph Kule Muranga, said that the government of Uganda supports press freedoms.
‘‘The government of Uganda respects freedom of the press because it is this freedom that we fought for” said Rt. Hon. Muranga
Guided and facilitated by Dr. William Tayebwa a lecture from Makerere University, the conflict sensitive reporting training focused on guidelines for reporting conflict and peace, the importance of gender sensitivity in reporting conflicts, safety for journalists working in conflict areas and ethical guidelines for journalists covering conflicts and peace building, among other topics.
At the end of the two double trainings, the journalists said it had helped improve their understanding of how the media can be used to promote peace and reconciliation in the Rwenzori region.
‘‘I am a mid-career Journalist. But now I know how to report conflict. For example, I know that in a conflict a reporter should not only focus on parties involved in the conflict but also on solutions being proposed to address the conflict,’’ said Evelyn Kabugho, a staff at Light FM radio in Kasese town. Kabugho works as a reporter at the media house.
Sheila Muhindo, a social worker and volunteer with Creation Forum Africa in Kasese town, said: ‘‘It was my first time to attend such training. Now I have learnt that journalists working in a conflict situation should always take safety precautions in the course of their work.’’
During the trainings, Journalism practitioners, trainers and scholars agreed that if used in a conflict sensitive manner, the media can play an instrumental role in deescalating conflicts and building peace in conflict and post conflict situations.