The Department of Journalism and communication (DJC) in conjunction with Uganda Christian University hosted this years’ East Africa Communications Association Conference, EACA, on 26th- 27th August with key discussions on media and communication in the regional bloc.
The President of EACA, Prof. Monica Chibita pointed out that, "EACA aims to bring together Journalism, Media and Communication academics and professionals from East Africa or interested in East Africa to enable them to network, and to share their research with peers. In order to do this, we hold an annual regional conference and run the Journal of African Communication. Hopefully we can help document the sector, and contribute to policy and debate in this area."
The two-day conference held under the theme ‘Media and Communication in the age of Regionalism,’ attracted 120 participants from USA, Norway, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda. The conference had sub-themes like Media, Communication and regional integration in East Africa and Africa; Media and Communication as business in a regional integration context; Development and role of indigenous language media in Africa; Social change communication in the context of regional integration; Opportunities and innovations in building capacity for changing media and communication environment in a regional context among others. The conference also had a special component for graduate students at Makerere University to present their ongoing Masters research.
According to the conference convener, Dr. Aisha Nakiwala, “this conference presented an opportunity to media scholars and practitioners to shape the Communication research agenda in the region and beyond. It is also a ground for researchers to improve their areas of interest by presenting to a peer audience as we build the body of knowledge. Makerere University was hosting the EACA conference for the first time, but the experience has been so rewarding that we look forward to hosting it again.”
The EACA conference was officially opened by the Minister of Information, ICT and Communication, Frank Tumwebaze, who challenged universities to rethink the quality of journalism training as a model to enhance oneness in the East African Community. “The media’s role is primarily based on the premise of disseminating ideas on regionalism and integration, to lead to a great regional consciousness among the mass population and consequently generate an East Africa community culture. It is therefore important that we amass professional communication, which must ensure that the target audience is reached, media is effective and feedback is received,” he said. “Media should be patriotic. For example while criticism against the government is healthy and part of communication, narratives that seek to brand the East African Community wrongly and frame it with sensational images should not only be seen as unpatriotic but should be strongly opposed. This duty is for all citizens. If the story of the East African heritage is wrongly told, then we all lose,” he added.
Dr. William Tayeebwa, the Chair of the Department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University briefed the Minister that this Department has positioned to conduct Journalism training for the region and beyond. “Hon. Minister, we want to become a School of Journalism, Media and Communication, we have revamped our curricular to accommodate two bachelors and two Master’s programmes. We hope to put up a media dome as a one stop centre for Journalism training in the region and we look forward to accomplishing this dream when you are still in office,” he said to a thunderous applause. Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengezi, the Dean, School of Languages, Literature and Communication congratulated DJC for hosting EACA and advised that the curriculum review should capture and shape the growing use of social media so that the principles of journalism are not watered down.
One of the key sessions on day two of the conference was a presentation from Dr. George Lugalambi on ‘Prospects and Challenges of the Extractive Industry: What News Media Practitioners Need to Know.’ Dr. Lugalambi, of the National Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), called upon journalists to manage the debate on oil by putting facts into proper context. He alluded to the discovery of oil in Uganda which created anxiety and applauded the country for making efforts towards putting in place the necessary legal framework before full blown extraction can take place. “Uganda has created a good legal and institutional framework for the management of oil reserves and other extractives. Norway presents good lessons for many countries on how to manage resources. It is important for journalists to have the knowledge and manage the overblown expectations of discovering oil,” he advised.
The conference closed with a General Assembly for EACA members during which they elected new leaders. Prof. Chibita- Head of the Mass Communication Department at Uganda Christian University retained the Presidency. She has been President since 2014 and was retained on the strength of her commitment and high-level leadership.
By Marion Alina