Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Military, journalists set aside hostilities

Dr. Carol Getty in action
To no one’s surprise, the army guys don’t much like the way that the journalists report about them, and the journalists aren’t especially enamored with the way that the army withholds information from reporters.

 This meeting between military and journalists could be taking place at Fort Leavenworth or anywhere else where media mix with soldiers. It just so happens that this particular get-together is in Fort Portal in Western Uganda.

Dr. Ken Christopher
 The meeting—a seminar on peace media and counterterrorism—brought together 21 representatives from media, police, and the army (UPDF-Ugandan Patriotic Defense Forces). The army participants were public information officers and others who interact with the media.

 The exchange between the media reps and security officials was animated on the first day particularly as each side poked at the other’s sore spots: a media that sometimes favors sensationalism over fact-based reporting, and a security force that isn’t as forthcoming as it could be with reporters.

By the third day of the seminar, sponsored by the US Embassy-Kampala and the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University, the participants had come together to produce an anti-terror radio PSA and a plan to work together in the future.

 It will be interesting to see if and how the media reps and security folks join forces in the future to combat violent extremism. There was certainly a more formal atmosphere at this seminar (compared to our six other seminars). Participants did speak out, although my colleagues (Carol Getty, Ken Christopher, John Hamilton) and I noticed a reluctance to speak that was not evident at our other seminars. Christopher pointed out that in other seminars he’s taught, participants were sometimes reluctant to speak in front of high ranking individuals, like the UPDF officers and resident district coordinator who were present at this seminar. I think Prof. Christopher's right.

 If nothing else, getting the security officials and reporters in the same room talking to one another, and hearing them acknowledge their shared commitment to keeping Ugandans safe, gives me hope that they will better collaborate in the months ahead.

Radio Active

Prof. John Hamilton on the air in Fort Portal, Uganda
Our stay in Fort Portal included a stint as guests on a talk program on VOT radio. The wide ranging discussion included banter about our seminar as well as more general discussions about government, the right to protest, and women’s rights.

As the show concluded, the host asked me a question about whether Ugandan President Museveni had stayed in office too long. Before I could answer, the producer indicated that time was up. Saved by the bell!

Follow daily updates on our Ugandan adventure on Twitter @PeaceJourn .

1 comment:

  1. The idea of trying to settle down internal conflicts between the soldiers and the journalists is a necessity. Both parties are supposed to be going hand-in-hand, getting on the same side for this case but it seems some issues are at hand already. Having representatives of each party a chance to speak in the seminar was a good idea.