“A Journalism that sees newsrooms as partners rather than competitors”

The maiden Investigative Journalism Conference Uganda 2020 launched on Thursday, 22nd October, with panelists strongly calling on media houses and news rooms to partner in the search for truth.

This year’s conference was aired and streamed LIVE on NBS TV deliberating on the state of investigative journalism in Uganda whilst highlighting the past, present, future, opportunities and challenges of investigative story telling.

The conversation was moderated by Solomon Serwanjja, the Executive Director of the African Institute of Investigative Journalism; speaking to Uganda’s renowned and seasoned journalism scholars and practitioners; Prof. Monica Chibita- Dean, Faculty of Journalism, Media and communication at Uganda Christian University (UCU), Dr. Peter Mwesige- Executive Director at African Center for Media Excellence,  Andrew Mwenda- Chief Executive Officer, The Independent magazine, Emmanuel Mutaizibwa- Investigative Journalist with the National Media Ground and Dalton Kawesa- Chief News Editor, Next Media Service.

Opening the conversation was the Deputy Executive Director of the African Institute for Investigative Journalism (AIIJ), Raymond Mujuni who gave the preamble of the discussion on the state of investigative journalism. “We are exceptionally delighted to host you today to the first ever investigative journalism conference under the theme “state of Investigative journalism in Uganda”. As an institute founded and niched in the ideas of investigative reporting, seeing, in this room, a host of professionals on whose blood, sweat and tears the rostrum of Uganda’s journalism shines bright, we can only be proud and exceptionally humbled that you accepted our invitation”

Before the panel discussion, a keynote address was given by Nation Media Group’s Public Editor, Charles Odoobo Bichachi who commended the African Institute for Investigative Journalism (AIIJ) for reviving the spirit of Investigative Journalism and bringing back the golden days. Bichachi also called upon newsrooms to reflect and evaluate on some of Journalism’s fundamental values: passion, curiosity, initiative, logical thinking, discipline, flexibility, good writing skills, ethics, fairness, broad knowledge of issues, time and resources to better investigative journalism as a form of journalism.

While speaking on the impact of emerging new technologies and digital space on investigative journalism, the founder of the Independent Magazine and veteran investigative journalist, Andrew Mwenda advised and cautioned journalists to adopt and adapt to the ever evolving audience and technologies. “The traditional media have got to create information that is short and sharp because people have a short attention span. We need to rethink how to do investigative journalism that is quick, sharp, and short” said Andrew

Nation Media Group’s investigative journalist Emmanuel Mutaizibwa, enthusiastically called upon newsrooms and media owners to see themselves as partners not as competitors in investigative reporting.  “We should not look at journalism as competition. We need to encourage collaborative journalism. That’s the only way we are going to improve investigative journalism.”

Professor Monica Chibita who serves as the Dean, Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication at Uganda Christian University (UCU) highlighted the big gap between the newsroom and classrooms strongly noting that “There is a huge gap between the two: newsroom and classroom since most of the lecturers like me have never been to newsrooms and yet we are training journalists.” 

Dr. Peter Mwesige of African Centre for Media Excellency (ACME) warned and highlighted the impact of media ownership. “Very many media owners don’t care about the public interest mission of journalism. They are in it for prestige or for political gains or for money.” He said.

Addressing the dropping quality of investigative stories in newsrooms, Dalton Kawesa- Chief News Editor, Next Media Services called for a paradigm shift by media owners and newsroom editors so as to give more space and time to investigative journalism. 

“If only media owners can know that Investigative journalism can convert viewers and improve circulation numbers therefore attracting advertisers. When you do an impactful investigative report and many watch it, you will convert viewers in broadcast and also increase the number of circulation in print.” Dalton said.

Dalton urged media owners to rethink and give a place for this impactful form of journalism.

While wrapping up the conversation, the Executive Director of the African Institute for Investigative Journalism, Solomon Serwanjja stressed the commitment of the institute towards equipping and empowering journalists with skills, knowledge and resources to go beyond the headlines and report investigations that are going to go for public resource accountability, social justice and question people in power.

“What we will be focusing on in the next months, will be the focus on training and capacity building, collaborative reporting, provide and source funding for impactful investigative stories and also provide legal support for investigative journalists.” He said.

Watch the full discussion here