Salary, Suppression, and Spies: Journalistic Challenges in Uganda

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Despite enduring “some of the worst political and economic chaos anywhere in the world” (Mwesige, P. G. 2004. “Disseminators, Advocates and Watchdogs: A Profile of Ugandan Journalists in the New Millennium.” Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism 5 (1): 69–96. doi:10.1177/1464884904039556), for the last quarter century Uganda has seen significant progress under President Yoweri Museveni, who is credited with liberalizing the media and instituting a constitutional guarantee of free press (Kalyango, Y., and P. Eckler. 2010. “Media Performance, Agenda Building, and Democratization in East Africa.” Communication Yearbook 34: 355–389). Now, Uganda has “one of the more vibrant media scenes in east and central Africa” (Freedom House. 2017. Freedom of the Press 2017. Uganda., para. 5–6). Still, journalist continue to face challenges. This study utilized in-depth interviews to examine the challenges Ugandan reporters face and what could be done to alleviate them. Through the lens of Shoemaker and Reese’s (2013. Mediating the Message in the 21st Century: A Media Sociology Perspective. Routledge) Hierarchy of Influences Model, findings reveal that journalists’ challenges come from almost every level. At the individual level, journalists lack professionalism and engage in unethical behavior. Some of these challenges can be blamed on news organizations due to low pay and failed efforts to create a united professional organization to train reporters to act ethically. Extramedia forces, namely, government restrictions, also pose significant challenge. And some restrictions, such as limited access to information, are influenced by ideological factors. As Tabaire (2007. “The Press and Political Repression in Uganda: Back to the Future?” Journal of Eastern African Studies 1 (2): 193–211. doi:10.1080/17531050701452408) suggests, “Only a much more democratic Uganda will ensure a freer press” (208).

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