Investigative journalism in defense of public interest.

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The 2022 Open Climate reporting initiative training

A group of 10 journalists went through a 3 day residential training in Kampala on reporting on climate change and environmental crime with support from the Centre for Investigative journalism.

The Fellows in this year’s fellowship were;

  1. Chowoo Willy
  2. Racheal pAKRWOTH from News 24/7
  3. Gerald Tenywa from New vISION
  4. Okello Jesus Ojara
  5. Jamila Mulindwa Nuwaha
  6. Kei Emmanuel Duku
  7. Patrick Jaramogi a freelance investigative journalist
  8. Gloria Atuhairwe
  9. Joel Kaguta
  10. Stuart Tibaweswa

These 10 reporters were selected on the basis of their story pitches out of a pool of over 70 that applied for this fellowship.

The fellows were first taken through an introductory lecture on climate change and environmental crime by Dr. Daniel Dumba, a seasoned climate change, and environmental Science Specialist.

Dr Daniel Dumba

This was a crucial first stage of the training process so the fellows could understand the intricate nature of climate change statistics and data.

Because a lot of the reporting on climate change involves data, the fellows were taken through a practical lesson on the latest data gathering and analysis tools available on the internet. This session was led by Deputy Executive director of the African Institute for Investigative journalism Raymond Mujuni.

Senior Investigative journalists then put on their trainer’s hats and joined us to take the fellows through various topics, among them; the art of storytelling, Investigative filmmaking, Story writing, Editing, Fact-checking, and Solution based journalism among others.

On top of speaking to senior investigative journalists, the fellows got a chance to interact with celebrated environmentalists William Amanzuru and Rebecca Sandoval who shared their experiences in the field of conservation.

Just as learning never stops, the learning went on into the night but this time in a more relaxed atmosphere, under the stars around a fire.

A fireplace dinner that gave the fellows an opportunity to interact with one another and also hear from senior journalists while enjoying a meal together.

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CALL FOR PITCHES ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Are you a journalist based in Uganda with an investigative story idea that you have always wanted to execute on climate change and environmental crime?

Tell us about your story idea.

Submit your story pitch, budget, cv, and a letter from your editor to aiijuganda2020@gmail.com

We shall fund and work with you to execute your story

The deadline for receiving pitches is 5th August 2022.

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The annual investigative journalism fellowship

The annual investigative journalism fellowship kicked off on 12th July 2022 week with a three-day intense training for selected fellows from across the country.

The training focused on skills-based learning centered on data journalism, mobile journalism, introduction to investigative reporting and producing compelling investigative journalism among others.

The 15 fellows who graduated into the fellowship were selected from a large pool of applicants who demonstrated through their story pitches a keen interest to produce compelling investigative reporting in the areas of corruption and accountability, climate change and environmental crime, human rights violations and access to justice.

The Executive Director for the African Institute For Investigative Journalism Solomon Serwanjja congratulated the fellows who started the year-long fellowship upon their selection and urged them to do investigative journalism in public interest.

Solomon Serwanjja Executive Director AIIJ

“All good investigative journalism is done in the defense of public interest.

We need to increase our ability to bring the powerful to account through our stories and to offer the voiceless a voice”

he said as he opened the training.

The fellows were given an introduction to investigative journalism toolkit by Raymond Mujuni, the Deputy Executive Director of AIIJ.  He took them through the features of investigative journalism and the considerations the fellows would take for writing and producing compelling reporting. He also taught the fellows on how to research for investigative journalism.

The fellows also interacted with rekonwned investigative journalists like Frederick Musisi, Canary Mugume and Joseph Beyanga.

After the three-day training, the fellows will now competitively pitch to have their stories funded and executed.

The Annual Investigative Journalism Fellowship is the first of its kind boutique training centered on improving investigative reporting in newsrooms and local communities. It centers on equipping journalists with both skills, training and exposure combined with grants to pursue dedicated investigative reporting.

The Institute is conducting the training in partnership with the Media Innovation Centre of the Aga Khan University.

The fellowship in Pictures

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A call for justice. ‘’Targeted’’ a year later

By Grace Birungi

‘’I am not looking for compensation but justice,’’ Ashraf Kasirye, a journalist who was targeted during the 2020/21 Uganda election, said.

During a dialogue organized by the African Institute for Investigative journalism (AIIJ) on 18th May 2022 at Golden Tulip hotel, candid conversations on justice for journalists that were “targeted” during elections took center stage.

It was walking down memory lane and reopening discussions on demanding for arrest and trial of security officers who violated the rights of journalists. At the peak of the 2021 General Election in Uganda, the African Institute for Investigative journalism published a documentary “targeted” that showcased chilling narratives of journalists who were tortured.

A panel discussion moderated by Solomon Serwanjja, Executive Director of AIIJ, centered on the lives of journalists who were featured in the documentary a year later.

An emotional moment it was for Irene Abalo, a journalist with the Daily Monitor who to date walks on a crutch as she faced her tormentors.  “Every time I see a man dressed in a UPDF uniform; I get traumatized. Life has been different for me. For months I could not support myself including going to the washroom. I cannot practice journalism as I did. I am only reduced to a voice-over artist to read scripts for NTV Panorama.” She said.

Ashraf Kasirye, a Ghetto TV journalist who had his head covered, explained that he can’t stand noise, wind, or sunlight, which is why he covers his head.

 “Media in Uganda is not respected by people who lead us, to an extent that, when a security officer comes out to shoot or beat a journalist, like how Enock Baine who shot me, nothing is done,” Ashraf concluded.

Daniel Lutaaya, a journalist with NBS, said if what happened to them had happened elsewhere in the world, something would be done. ‘’If you think what you are doing is right, why do you fear cameras,” he added.

Daniel concluded by saying, press freedom in Uganda is possible even when they will not see it, but it will come.

Derrick Wandera, a journalist with the Daily monitor, advised that, the only thing that can be done to stop violence is using a pen and paper to put faces to it and when it happens, the perpetrators will be isolated.

Uganda People’s Defense Forces spokesperson, Afande Felix Kulaigye, who was the keynote speaker apologized on behalf of the UPDF to the journalists that were tortured. “I am annoyed by incidents such as these that involve men in uniform beating up journalists. I condemn this strongly and it has been a part of my teaching series for soldiers in military colleges”

Benjamin Katana, a human rights lawyer expressed his concern about how men and women in uniform chose to have a side in politics, and whoever is not on their side is targeted and dealt with as an enemy of the state.

‘’It doesn’t call for journalists to be battered. What is the role of regulations? They don’t even wait for you to go through the processes of the law. It is an illusion for journalists to think their rights will be respected in a country where human rights are not respected,’’ Benjamin said.

Ruth Ssekindi, the head of the Uganda Human Rights Commission added that there is a need for more training and sensitization, and background checks before the recruitment of officers.

Torture and imprisonment have deprived many journalists around the world of their watchdog role, and nothing has been done to hold the perpetrators accountable. A lot more demands for journalist justice must be made through advocacy and publicizing atrocities against journalists.

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Following the COVID-19 vaccine money, where is the 560BN?

By Grace Birungi

Uganda was in desperate need of vaccines at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of infections soared. During the first wave in 2020, parliament allocated 18.5 billion shillings to procure 18 million doses through the covax facility. In addition, the government allocated 560 billion shillings in the fiscal year 2021/2022 budget to purchase more vaccines.

During the same financial year, parliament appropriated 80 billion shillings to National Medical Stores (NMS) to procure additional vaccines. This money was fully released by the Ministry of Finance to both NMS and Ministry of health. However, Uganda’s vaccines have been donations from development partners amounting to 1.3 trillion shillings.

The investigation focuses on the accountability of the money that was given to NMS and the Ministry of Health (MOH) from the government consolidated fund to procure vaccines during the first and second wave of the pandemic mindful that many of the vaccines have been donations.

The investigation was guided on three questions;

1. Were the vaccines bought?

2. If yes, how many vaccines were procured and at what price?

3. Why did the ministry of health takeover the procurement of vaccines from the NMS body mandated by law to procure and distribute medical supplies?

Finding answers to the questions became very difficult due to a lack of access to information from the two bodies, NMS and MOH, prompting the investigations team to turn to open source information; reviewing parliamentary proceedings, documents presented by both agencies in committees, and obtaining archive footage.

While appearing before a 40-member parliamentary taskforce on COVID-19, the National medical stores general manager, Moses Kamabale told the committee that, they had not received the 18.5 billion shillings but rather, the 80 billion shillings that was appropriated in the financial year 2021/2022

When asked about the whereabouts of the money, finance minister Matia Kasaija, who also attended the meeting, said that he came to the meeting unprepared and thus didn’t have any information. The committee was unable to obtain answers to accountability questions regarding the 18.5 billion, 80 billion, and 560 billion given to the MOH.

Later in the month of January, the Auditor General, John Muwanga, finalized with his forensic and audit into the expenditure relating to COVID-19 for the financial year 2020/2021. Indeed, the 18.5 billion was captured in his report as having been disbursed to the MOH, however the Auditor General did not go deep to discuss the expenditure, he did not speak about how many vaccines were procured and at what price.

When the Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Acheng was contacted for some answers, she stated that, the ministry could fully account for the money. According to her submission, the 18.5 billion plus the 80 billion and an additional 30 billion was all spent on vaccines.

Dr. Jane Ruth Acheng, too, did not reveal how many vaccines were procured, how much money was deposited on the UNICEF account to procure the vaccines under the covax facility, and at what rate per doze.

The investigation revealed that only 128 Billion Shillings was advanced to UNICEF to procure 3 million doses of vaccines. The Ministry of Health was not able to provide evidence of expenditure on the procurement of the vaccines for the 450 Billion shillings. Watch the investigation here.

News

TIPS FOR FACT-CHECKING DURING AN ELECTION

By Vincent Ng’ethe.

A number of countries will have elections in 2022, including Kenya, Chad, Angola, the Gambia, Mali, Congo, Libya, Senegal and others.  Here, Vincent Ng’ethe provides some tips to help you check the claims candidates make and keep misinformation at bay.

  1. Watch and listen

To catch misinformation, you have to listen for it. Watch political rallies, radio and TV talk shows, and social media posts. Make a schedule of shows so that you don’t miss any. Talk shows often advertise their guests on social media, so check ahead of time to see who will be featured.

2. Follow and tap into conversations and trends

Follow the news in order to understand the latest political arguments, buzzwords, talking points and trends. Some politicians, such as the president, are always in the news, while others appear more sporadically. People posting misinformation often follow these conversations in order to take advantage of elevated public interest in a certain event or person.

3. Make lists and queries

Create lists of social media accounts that share misinformation and check them frequently. Social media trends are often artificially created and many repeat actors are involved. Create queries of terms that are often used to make claims or incitement and create alerts so that you receive notifications.

4. Archive first

As soon as possible after hearing or reading the claim, archive videos, social media posts, web pages and documents where claims have been made, preferably before checking them. Often, checking a claim means contacting the person who made it to ask for evidence, and their first order of business after getting off the phone with you may be to delete it or edit out the offending snippet.

Note also that quotes of interest made in a live broadcast may not be preserved in the excerpts that are chosen for a news bulletin, and live streams may not be preserved.  Public figures can deny making remarks and they may get away with it if nobody has preserved a copy.

5. Select specific claims that are actually checkable

Be very specific about the exact claim you are checking. Ensure you are fact-checking verbatim quotes, not a paraphrased statement, which the speaker can deny making. Get a video or audio recording of a person making the claim.  If you are fact-checking a speech, check the speech as was delivered, not the original published version.

6. Guard your credibility

Perceptions of bias are fatal to your credibility as a fact-checker, so ensure that you are nonpartisan, and do not check claims by only one side of the political divide or a single political party. Try and check claims by all political candidates. Do not feel compelled to check a claim because there are demands to check it, rather check it because it measures up to your own rules for claim selectio (see an example from Africa Check here).

7. Collect credible evidence

Look for credible sources of evidence. Look at official statistics, peer reviewed research and reports from credible research institutions. Collecting them as you go means that you will spend less and less time checking claims as you gain experience, making it possible to check your claims faster, and in a more timely fashion. Often the ability to check a claim hinges on whether credible evidence against which to test the claim can be found. Lack of evidence may lead it being abandoned, so focus on the availability of evidence early in the process.

8. Identify and work with experts

You need experts to help you interpret data and also to explain why claims are accurate or inaccurate. They can also direct you to the best sources of information, or suggest other experts. Get to know as many credible experts in the field as possible (Africa Check recommends that you contact more than one expert when checking a claim). Ask the experts questions until you understand the data and the explanations properly.

If a particular field predominates your fact-checking work, such as epidemiology during the Covid-19 pandemic, national debt or human rights, knowing multiple experts means you can alternate between experts at busy times, reducing the frequency with which you call on any one. They’re busy people, so they’ll appreciate that.

9. Reach out

Tell the public that you are fact-checking claims during the election, and give them a means to contact you, such as a WhatsApp number or email. Growing a fact-checking community not only increases your readers, but provides feedback that will improve your work and challenge your biases. Lastly, they will also notify you of potential claims you could check.

10. Check

The most important part of the job. Once you have written your report, go through it meticulously. Ensure you have checked the correct claim, all your links lead to the correct sources, your numbers add up, and that you have correctly captured and understood what the experts said. Make sure you understand the report. Also come up with a fitting conclusion (See this Africa Check conclusion on reaching a verdict).

11. Publish

Most people, particularly politicians, do not appreciate being publicly corrected, so your fact-checking endeavors may not be enthusiastically welcomed. At all times maintain a cordial manner. Notifying public figures that you are checking a claim means they will not be taken by surprise when you eventually publish. Avoid sensational headlines or reports and stick to the facts. Ask makers of claims to consider making a correction, and point out the benefits to their credibility of admitting to, and correcting, an error.  It helps if you have a previous example of a correction to show them. Finally, if you receive backlash, do not feel free to engage in endless online back-and-forth. Do what you can, and let it drop.

Should you make an error…

As a fact-checker, who checks claims by others, your own work is closely scrutinized. Should you make a mistake, whether you notice it yourself, or it is brought to your attention, do not hide it. Instead, acknowledge and correct it publicly. It’s the least the public deserves.

Vincent Ng’ethe is an experienced journalist and fact-checking editor.