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action for transparency

This project seeks to empower selected journalists and media houses to understand key governance and public accountability issues. It is funded by the United States Mission in Uganda. It is being implemented in five regions of Uganda namely Kasese, Jinja, Kabale, Soroti and Arua.  In 2017, 90 journalists  from Mbarara, Mbale and Gulu were trained on a similar program.

The project is a  sequel to the very successful Elections Reporting Trainings  that were conducted with support from the United States Mission before the February 18  2016 general elections. Now that elections are over and institutions in place, it is time to focus on how media can contribute to the democratic dispensation through strengthening media agency to monitor those institutions, make them work better, and amplifying views of the local people to the national parliament. This intervention is uniquely different from others targeting  Parliament reporters based in Kampala.

Based on evaluation from the  above training, it was revealed that up to 70 percent of trained journalists in elections reporting training had not covered a national election before, and by implication are not familiar with key governance issues. This is largely because many journalists tend to move for greener pastures due to poor pay by media houses. Moreover, in Uganda, there is little space and time given to post election issues beyond the immediate outcome of the elections. Media houses move quickly to other issues that may attract large audiences.

Uganda has a new Parliament now, where the ruling NRM has a substantial majority.  This numerical strength has in many cases in the past been used run through legislation and adopt policy positions that favour government interests but which are not subjected to rigorous debate or critical media review.  Trends in previous parliaments show that many MPs from both sides of Parliament do not prepare enough through research before taking part in Parliament debates, and as a result, have little to contribute to the quality and depth of knowledge on bills before Parliament. They do not consult adequately with constituents on positions towards the business in Parliament. As a result, MPs take positions which in many instances which do not reflect or represent views of the constituents. As a result, within the context of representative democracy, the gap between the elected leaders and the electorate continues to widen. 

The relative complication is that the media, which should ideally keep government in check, also lack the skills in understanding key governance and accountability issues. For instance, most of the upcountry media, will pick stories from syndicated agencies such as Uganda Radio Network, covering what has happened on the flow of Parliament, but  miss out on the big picture and the context.

There is great need to emphasize that good governance is about the processes for making and implementing decisions. It’s not about making ‘correct’ decisions, but about the best possible process for making those decisions. Good decision-making processes, and therefore good governance, share several characteristics. All have a positive effect on various aspects of  government including consultation policies and practices, meeting procedures, service quality protocols and good working relationships. The participants will be trained that good governance is accountable, transparent, follows the rule of law, responsive, equitable and inclusive, participatory, effective and efficient

Training curriculum

The training focuses  on equipping journalists with skills in reporting on key public issues such as the need for accountability and good governance. This kind of reporting has been very limited among journalists because of censorship by media owners, who at times happen to be politicians holding public office. Calling public officials to account is a cardinal principle which journalists have to uphold. It also helps to sensitize the public about the concept of citizen journalism, where people formerly known as the audience employs the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another. It is based upon public citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information, especially using new and social media technology.

It has been noted that accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices; in leadership roles accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.

Objectives: The overall objective is to empower selected journalists to understand and disseminate key governance and public accountability issues

Specific objectives:

1: To train 150 female and male journalists from five regions of Uganda to understand key governance and accountability issues .

2. To promote a culture of accountability and good governance through publicity in different media platforms

3:  To build skills of journalists to engage with key government actors and parliamentarians.