Peace journalism applied: An assessment of media coverage of the
conflict in Northern Uganda
The paper explores
how peace journalism has been applied in Uganda basing on an assessment
of findings from a survey on the media coverage of the conflict in northern
Uganda. The paper analyses the findings from the print media coverage
of 2 newspapers for 3 years that were used as sample.
The analysis considered several quantitative and qualitative variables
including: frequency, type of stories (news vs non-news), authors of stories
(journalists vs non-journalists), placement/prominence of story, balance
in the story, information sources, language and tone, focus, peace initiatives
and use of photographs.
The introduction gives an overview of the concept of conflict and why
we continue to have conflicts in society. The paper posits that since
all people in society cannot have the same definition of a situation all
the time, especially regarding the distribution of power and resources,
disagreements and conflicts arise, which in extreme cases escalate into
armed conflicts or wars. The paper looks at the major causes of conflicts
in Africa and gives a background to the conflict/war in Northern Uganda,
where the fighting has been going on since 1986, when President Museveni
took over power.
A synopsis of the findings showed that most of the coverage on the war
was done by journalists in the form of news stories, with a few feature
articles. This implies that journalists are largely responsible for what
people get to learn about the war. Depending on the way journalists report
about the conflict, people's perceptions will be influenced accordingly.
The analysis showed that the government paper was largely biased towards
government and confrontational in its reports, while the private paper
used a more conciliatory tone and was more balanced by using various sources
for their stories. There was fair coverage of peace initiatives, although
this focused most on government efforts. An evaluation of the coverage
showed that this had its strengths and weaknesses. While the media had
helped in raising awareness about the war, there was self-censorship amongst
the journalists, partly due to the Anti-terrorism Act, which makes it
a capital offence if a journalist gives information that can aid terrorism.
The paper looks at some obstacles that prevent journalists from giving
objective reports when reporting on conflicts/wars.
The paper concludes with some recommendations on how peace journalism
can be consciously applied to contribute more meaningfully to the peace
building process in Northern Uganda.
On the author:
Linda Nassanga is a senior Lecturer and Coordinator Masters Programme at
the Mass Communication Department, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.
Her area of academic interest/research is Development Communication, specializing
in: gender and media; environment; peace and conflict; reproductive health;
children; population; media policies and regulation. She is a member of
the following professional bodies: Africa Council on Communication Education;
Africa Network for Environment Journalists, East Africa Media Institute;
Uganda Media Women's Association and Faculty of Arts Research & Higher
Contact: Phone: 041-543919 (Office), 041-290423 (House), 0772-503878 (mobile)