BY ALEX TAREMWA
The Government of Uganda has started consultations with media professionals, journalists and researchers to start a public journalism school aimed at equipping practitioners with practical skills to better the profession.
The Minister of Information, ICT and Communications, Frank Tumwebaze, unveiled the proposal during the sixth East African Communications Associations (EACA) conference organised jointly by the Makerere University department of Journalism and Communication and the Uganda Christian University (UCU) department of Mass Communication.
Tumwebaze, who was the chief guest at the conference scoffed at the growing number of untrained ‘journalists’ working in numerous media houses which he argued has not only compromised the quality of journalism in the country but has also made it difficult for the profession to be regulated.
“We have so many people in the newsrooms, radios and TVs who have not gone through the formal schools of journalism but we cannot weed them out for fear of the implications. So I think that a school with specific content for practising journalists could help give them the basic minimum qualifications of journalism,” he said.
The minister equated the proposed school to the Law Development Centre (LDC) that lawyers are mandated to go through before practising law.
Speaking to The Standard on the sidelines of the conference, Dr Monica Chibita, the head of Mass Communication at UCU, expressed support for the proposed school but said that she did not trust in the ability of the government to keep it professional and independent of interference.
Chibita, who is also the President of EACA, explained that the already existing journalism schools, like UCU’s Department of Mass Communication, are already doing their best to produce professional journalists.
Her sentiments are shared by media practitioners who argue that this attempt is one of the Government’s schemes to indoctrinate and infiltrate the industry.
John Njoroge, a long-serving investigative journalist with Daily Monitor, told The Standard that although the spirit behind the suggestion is good, he is skeptical about the prospects of its success.
“I think it is a good idea to start a public school of journalism in the country but I cannot trust the government to spearhead it,” he said.
Although the minister did not divulge as to when the school is likely to begin, he said consultations will be done with major stakeholders to arrive at a more informed conclusion.