Kampala — Students from different media training institutions from the Central Kampala Region from Monday 23rd – 25th May, 2016 underwent a Social media and Citizen Journalism training workshop organised by the Uganda Radio Network (URN) and U.S mission Uganda at URN Kamwokya- Kampala offices in Wakiso district.
Speaking during a 3-day workshop, the URN Specialist and training manager Wilson Kaija Akiiki said social media plays a vital role in informing the society in various issues affecting people in the country and should be embraced not foregoing journalism ethics.
“For as long as you are journalists or you want to do journalism, the rules that govern media remain the same be it offline or traditional media. Ethics, if you do otherwise, then you have trouble like you see today. Sadly, the government is coming to crack social media. Where as part of the problem is with us journalists because we do not sieve what we post. We don’t follow the simple rules of journalism and end up getting trouble, that doesn’t mean that government should continue shutting down the only democratizing tool that we have,” said Kaija.
He also added that this training was about bringing together different university students to talk about the role of social media in news gathering, how to use social media to tell a story, and also to look at social media as another tool to do journalism.
Sam Gummah the URN’s Chief Executive Officer expressed that the future for young people is in social media and traditional media must tap into them in their own audience which is social media so that they can truly reflect our society.
Sam Gummah the URN’s Chief Executive Officer
“If our society is predominantly young people, what I expect is more information, more sources of news, more news makers to be the young people themselves or the issues that affect young people most. But what I see today is that more of the news makers, most of the news is about people with titles. So this training experience was to try and get to the young people in the media which they have truly dominated which is social media and win them from there”
He urged government to embrace the “new animal” social media rather than being a hindrance.
“Have fun with social Media and you will have a lot more influence as government than you think,” said Gummah.
He also added that “Even if bad legislation comes up on Social media, it cannot thrive because eventually information will permeate through society and government institutions and it will be out of control. Look, some government parastatals are using social media effectively. If you look at Twitter handles of institutions like UMEME, URA, National water and sewerage cooperation, etc. Therefore Social Media is not just a tool for evil but also good.”
Also during the training workshop, participants were introduced to a new app called URN Citizen reporting platform developed by URN’s Systems manager Rhon Baleterewa aimed at enabling citizens send news tips for favorite news agencies across the country.
“I introduced the app to the students in the training workshop to help them send news tips using the said app so that we can get information on news wherever they are be their institutions or their homes of residences,” he said.
At the end of the training workshop, the U.S Mission representatives joined the social media training workshop whose Macon Phillips from the U.S state Department expressed U.S’s interest in supporting free speech for online space for democracy to thrive globally.
“Instead of cracking down on social media, embrace it. If you don’t talk about yourself as a government, someone is gonna frame you. Be in the media. Don’t wait to create packaged videos and expect the audience to consume it,” said Macon.
He added; “there is explosion of information online and the role you can play in that is not to wait for misinformation to happen and you be reactive. But if you wait for misinformation to first happen and then you come, your will never catch up.”
Macon Phillips,is a Coordinator of the US State Department Bureau of International Information Programs.