Ahead of the 2021 general elections, OHCHR, in partnership with UHRC and UN Women, trained 71 journalists in human rights and gender. “The credibility and integrity of any election is determined by the degree to which human rights are observed and respected during the electoral process.” a Senior Human Rights Officer with the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Sarah Mwandabi said this at a three days training session of journalists in Soroti District. The media plays a critical role in the dissemination of accurate information and fostering public debates on pertinent human rights concerns and more importantly in highlighting allegations of human rights violations, especially during the electoral process.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Uganda, in partnership with the Uganda Human Rights Commission and UN Women, concluded a circuit of capacity building training workshops for field-based journalists across Acholi and Lango sub-regions in northern Uganda, and in Karamoja and Teso sub-regions. The training focused on human rights and gender-sensitive reporting in the electoral context and benefited at least 71 journalists, including 26 female and 45 male.
While the training workshops aimed at sensitizing and building the capacities of journalists on how best to report professionally with human rights and gender lenses, the focus was also put on advocacy issues to improve the work environment for journalists, including periodic reviews of the regulatory framework. Further emphasis was put on the important role of the media to report objectively, with particular emphasis on matters that affect the youth, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and women, especially during the electoral process – an environment where human rights violations are often high.
Participants decried of the difficulties they encountered, including threats to personal security. Sarah Mwandabi of UHRC guided them on the referral pathways regarding such violations, but also advised participants to “always to use judgement as no news is worth dying for.” . The participants expressed gratitude to OHCHR and UHRC for the training but urged for protective gears such as bullet proof jackets to enable them conduct their work more safely.
While participants acknowledge that the work environment for journalists in Karamoja sub-region had significantly improved compared to a decade ago, journalists in Karamoja and the environs “still face incredible hardships to access sources and verify information because of poor infrastructure, and intermittent internet connectivity.” Wanyama Olandason, one of the participants at a training in Kaabong observed. “We have worked in the region for decades under very difficult circumstances, and we appreciate the transformation over the years, but the plight of field journalists should be addressed.” He noted.
OHCHR committed to address itself to the critical areas of concern that require advocacy, and to take the necessary efforts with professional bodies of journalists for sustainable solutions.