Celebrating Earth Journalism Network: A Journey to Murchison National Park

As the sun rose over the vast savannah of Murchison Falls National Park on May 17, casting a golden hue on the acacia trees and the Nile River, a special occasion was being marked. The Earth Journalism Network (EJN) had chosen this pristine wilderness as the backdrop for their 5th-anniversary celebration in East Africa.

EJN has trained hundreds of journalists across East Africa, equipping them with skills to report on environmental issues effectively. Journalists supported by the organisation have produced impactful stories on climate change, conservation, and biodiversity loss. Their work has raised awareness, influenced policy, and empowered local communities.

For years, journalists from northern Uganda had been quietly making waves. Their stories—of resilience, conflict, and hope—had caught the attention of the EJN. From reporting on environmental conservation efforts along the Albertine Rift and wildlife crimes to shedding light on the impact of climate change on local communities, these journalists excelled in pitching their ideas to the organization.

As the anniversary celebrations unfolded, the journalists lit a bonfire at Vilakazi Safari Camp and engaged in discussions on the future of environmental journalism and newsroom capabilities. They learned about conservation challenges, climate adaptation, and the delicate balance between tourism and preservation.

Kiundu Waweru – Project Manager East Africa Wildlife & Conservation Media Project at Internews EJN at Vilakazi Safari Camp

Mr. Kiundu Waweru, the EJN Project Manager, praised their tenacity. “Northern Uganda’s journalists have a unique perspective,” he said. “Their stories resonate with authenticity, and their commitment to environmental reporting is commendable. They seem so vibrant, motivated and hungry.”

Willy Chowoo, a seasoned reporter from Gulu, shared his excitement. “To think that our pitches, our words, led us here—it’s surreal,” he said. “We’re not just storytellers; we’re advocates for our environment. It was an achievement for us.”

Milton Akwam, a photojournalist from Lira, captured the essence of the trip through his lens. “These moments will find their way into our articles, our documentaries,” he said. “We’ll carry Murchison’s spirit back home.”

Benon Oluka, the Investigative Editor, East Africa, encouraged the journalists to keep rising. “There’s so much to cover – the oil exploration in the Albertine, charcoal burning and so many other great stories are waiting to be told,” he said. The journalists vowed to amplify their voices and to tell stories that mattered.

“Journalism isn’t just about headlines,” Charles Akena, the Administrator at the Northern Uganda Media Club, emphasized. “It’s about igniting change, sparking conversations, and protecting our natural heritage.”

As they spoke, there was the elephant—the unexpected guest at Vilakazi Safari Camp. Its massive form emerged from the darkness as the journalists gathered around the campfire at night. The crackling flames danced in its eyes, and for a moment, time stood still. They watched, awestruck, as the elephant ambled past, a living testament to the wild beauty of Murchison.

An elephant visited the journalists at Vilakazi Safari Camp

But the story didn’t end there. In the morning light, as dew clung to the grass, the same elephant returned. It stood near their residences as if bidding farewell. Perhaps it knew that these storytellers carried its tale—the tale of resilience, of unexpected encounters, and of the delicate balance between humans and nature.

The journey to Murchison Falls was more than a treat—it was a validation of their hard work. As the journalists explored the park, they witnessed elephants bathing in the river, giraffes grazing under the acacias, a lion resting under the leafy shades and the thunderous roar of the falls. But beyond the wildlife, they found inspiration in each other.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a crimson glow on the Nile, Mr Waweru addressed the group. “Your work matters,” he said. “I saw in Gulu people who wanted it more than any other region. Is Northern Uganda rising again from the ashes [of LRA war]?”

And so, under the African sky, surrounded by colleagues who had become friends, the journalists renewed their commitment to hold powers that be accountable. To northern Uganda, to the EJN, and to the next chapter of their storytelling journey they cheered.

Benon Oluka interacts with roadside vendors at Pakwach Town

EJN fosters collaboration among journalists, scientists, NGOs, and policymakers. Cross-border reporting initiatives have shed light on transboundary environmental challenges. EJN’s reporting has led to policy reforms, strengthened environmental laws, and increased accountability. Their advocacy work encourages sustainable practices and protects natural resources.

The Murchison Falls study visit marked EJN’s 5th year of conservation reporting project in East Africa and 20 years of EJN’s existence. Northern Uganda’s journalists were honoured for their exceptional pitches and grant-winning proposals.

The Murchison experience was more than a treat—it was a celebration of excellence, a reminder that their pens held the keys to change.

Happy 5th anniversary, Earth Journalism Network! And to our journalists: keep writing, keep advocating, and keep the spirit of Murchison alive.