Why independent media are important

Developing Stories offer courses in journalism, photo, media and communication in developing countries to students from all over the world. We always try to interact with the local media professionals in the countries in which we operate, and it always amazes us just how much work it takes to run and uphold critical and independent media in developing countries. And often at high risk for the journalists producing the stories every day.

Currently we are in Uganda with one of our Danish courses where we visited the biggest independent newspaper The Daily Monitor. I asked the News Editor Alex Atuhaire a few questions about running a newspaper in Uganda.

What is the most important reason to have independent news organizations in Uganda?

Uganda is a developing young democracy, one of those delicate ones in Africa where the continuous challenge is to turn it into a fully-fledged democracy. More independent news organisations would help in nurturing this young democracy, helping in shaping public opinion and standing up for social justice, among other things.

What is the most important tool any journalist should master?

Journalists are the voices of the voiceless. To me the most important tool a journalist should master, is to understand society and help raise the red flag before things go wrong. So for me, the most important tool any journalist should master is the analytical capacity – being able to see through things and making the right calls in terms of the information we publish.

Why do you think that Western media often overlook stories from Africa and other developing countries?

Frankly, I think it’s because most of them are less informed about the African story. They have this misconception that the African story is the story of wars, dictatorships, poverty and HIV/Aids. Hell NO! Africa is probably the richest continent in terms of our natural resources, environment and the wild life. True there is a let down by African leadership and this hasn’t helped the continent in terms of its image. But I guess a new wave is coming and I can see lots of positives in this decade.

Why are you working as an editor with the risk it contains in Uganda?

Well, I am a Ugandan! So who will sort out the Ugandan mess if I chose to keep away and see things go wrong? It’s true, it’s risky being an editor here, most of my colleagues have gone to jail because of archaic media laws most especially sedition and criminal libel. But I guess the Ugandan population needs us in times like these. And, I personally believe it’s better to fight from within than running away from the problems. And besides, it’s always a joy seeing the public appreciating our work.

What is a great journalistic story?

One that picks out the plight of the disadvantaged of society. One that triggers society to act in defence of the poor and the weak and as the Pope said, “the people we often think about last”.

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