Human rights, gender sensitive reporting, ethics and professionalism for journalists in the framework of the electoral process

Considering that the media have a critical role to play in the electoral process by inter alia providing accurate and reliable information to the public in a timely manner, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights organised two training sessions for a selected group of 33 journalists (19 females and 14 males) from across the country. Facilitation for this activity was provided by a variety of resource persons from the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), UN agencies, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), academic institutions as well as media professionals.

The training reviewed key human rights provisions in international, regional and national laws related to elections. An emphasis was also laid on the importance for the media to report very objectively and pay close attention to matters affecting the youth, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and women while doing every effort to identify and combat fake news and disinformation. Some practical tools and techniques were shared with the participants in that regard.

Participants posed the problems of threats they have to go through when investigating certain matters. The UHRC familiarised them with the procedures to use in such cases while OHCHR also expressed availability to assist. Issues having to do with poor pay, lack of adequate equipment for journalists as well as the absence of the Communication Tribunal were highlighted and discussed. OHCHR has pledged to advocate with journalists’ associations and relevant stakeholders for a communications Tribunal.

Participants expressed gratitude to OHCHR for the initiative and pledged to implement the knowledge acquired in their daily endeavours. The training on gender-sensitive reporting has informed the awareness and understanding of many; it has helped in shifting “our prejudices on women, especially in the media and newsrooms. These days, wherever possible, a “gender lens” should be applied at the stage of assigning a reporter, and subsequently at all stages of the story, including language and style of writing.” Robert Mugabe observed. He was among five males and ten female participants who benefited from the second session of two trainings on media and human rights in times of elections – organised by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda. He is a journalist with a disability – working with the National broadcaster – Uganda Broadcasting Corporation.

“We have learned that all of us matter and that the women, even those that are highly educated, still have an inferiority complex that should be addressed.” A female radio journalist said. “We must be deliberate that female journalists are empowered, to ensure that women’s issues appear on the front pages of our newspapers and primetime on the airwaves, but also women should be integrated into decision-making and influencing editorial policies that are pro-women.”

Going forward, and while the overall objective of the training is to sensitize journalists on professional work with human rights and gender lenses, at the end of these series of capacity building activities, which will also take place for media professionals in Karamoja, Lango, West Nile and Acholi regions as well, OHCHR intends to compile areas of concern that require advocacy. Then, necessary efforts will be made with journalists associations and other relevant likeminded from the UN and other national institutions and CSOs, with the view to looking for sustainable solutions.