WPFD 2023: A renewed call to professionalism

Amid the disinformation scourge, journalists are urged to promote professionalism to fight news distrust

The newsroom can be a very diverse place, with most journalists coming from different academic backgrounds.

With the media industry going digital, fake news continues to proliferate and newsrooms are increasingly finding it hard to navigate the rising tide of disinformation in online spaces, placing the quality of news in crosshairs.

Apollo Kakaire from the UMSWG gave opening remarks during the meeting in Kampala.

Recently during the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, journalists under their umbrella organization, the Uganda Media Working Sector Group (UMSWG), urged newsrooms to take critical steps in training journalists on “how to work professionally and also fight disinformation”.

“Disinformation on [social media] becomes a problem when the media houses are not training journalists on how to fight disinformation, especially those that come from different academic fields,” said Carol Beyanga, a journalist at Nation Media Group (NMG), during the meeting, which drew journalists, media practitioners, CSOs, and human rights activists. The global theme for this year’s WPFD is: “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression for all other Human Rights”.

Like elsewhere in the world, social media is among the most common sources of disinformation, painting a broader picture of the current challenges that mainstream media face. However, with almost all newsrooms heavily relying on online spaces to operate, it means they have to compete with other online users to spread information.

At the moment, most news consumers, Beyanga added, use social media channels to access information because it is “more attractive, appealing and easy to access” compared to the mainstream media.

“These [social media] platforms are good but they are so free [and that means it] can easily be abused by the public who are likely to spread fake news,” she added.

Adding to that, Alfred Oryem, Project Coordinator of the  Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC), said lack of professionalism was also worrying especially for the newsrooms in the rural communities where radio stations – which are widely used by the locals to access information – are run without professional journalists.

For NUMEC, Oryem said “they are building the capacity of journalists in northern Uganda on how to work ethically and how to combat disinformation using online tools” because most newsrooms in northern Uganda are financially stressed and are therefore unable to equip their human resources with such skills.

H.E Ole Reider Bergum , Deputy Ambassdor of the Nowergian Embassy, speaking during the event.

As for Beyanga of NMG, she said “We introduced a mentorship program in the newsrooms to promote professionalism”. She urged other newsrooms “to rethink training modules for training journalists in the newsroom”.

While social media is “rich and diverse”, Caroline Nakazibwe, the Country Coordinator of Women in News, said legacy media remains relevant now more than ever” because the public still goes back to their news whenever they want to verify the news”.

Minister for ICT and National Guidance, Chris Baryomunsi cautioned journalists against being biased in their reporting, adding that they should remain objective in their stories.