17 February 2013

Uganda: Editors Tip Health Journalists


Much as reporting on the health sector in Uganda has made progress over the last decade, there is still room for improvement, according to Michael Wakabi, The East African's Uganda Bureau editorial head.

Wakabi, a veteran journalist, was speaking to a group of health journalists during the third annual health conference which run from Feb.13-15 in Kampala.

He was speaking during a session where editors were passing on tips to health journalists, many of whom are still new on the beat. He said Ugandan health journalists should endeavour to channel out news that helps the public to make informed decisions about their health.

Towing with the theme of the conference which was on preventive health, Wakabi said the success of preventive health in so many countries relies a lot upon the initiatives by the state, it is driven by policy /programmes generated by the state or/and civil society.

He also advised the journalists who were drawn from media houses from across the country to build relationships with news sources. But he also challenged them not to be afraid of breaking them especially if it is on principle.

Irene Kizza Onyango, the health editor at The Observer noted that much as press releases are important news sources, she pointed out that health stories should be approached mostly from an investigative point of view. But she was quick to add that for this to materialize; media houses should be able to facilitate their staff.

She tipped the journalists to prepare for bold reporting on the oil sector since it has so many environmental health-related concerns.

"Now that oil is in Uganda, covering the health sector will require a little more boldness in approach than even what covering politics entails," she said.

Cathy Mwesigwa Kizza, the Deputy Editor at The New Vision urged journalists to always exercise caution when they are writing about health because the sector is important to everyone and therefore there is always much at stake.

Mwesigwa advised the journalists to always identify individual weaknesses and try and improve upon them.

At a much more hierarchical level, Mwesigwa noted that there is need for the Ugandan media industry to agree and cover particular health issues like maternal health on a consistent and sustained level if Uganda is to see improvement in this area.

"Do we want to see something change and pursue it for a whole year... That is what we should be doing," Mwesigwa said.

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