conflict & communication online, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2007
ISSN 1618-0747




Linda Nassanga Goretti
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.


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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 Degrees Committee.

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