CIPESA Results follow up 2018

The goal of the project is to increase media engagement, effective media coverage of issues of public service delivery and joint efforts in public awareness and engagement on governance issues in Uganda.

The media plays several integral roles in achieving transparency and accountability in the private and public sectors. Media reports allow citizens to gain more access to information and to follow on-going discussions in the public corridors.  Subsequently citizens become Knowledgeable vigilantes and are able to scrutinize the actions of duty bearers, and their governments. And by keeping people well informed on the current issues in their communities, the media unveils opportunities for transparent discussions, participation and engagements with people in leadership positions.

SPIDER, through its Open Data and Transparency program, has been supporting the project, “Media for Transparency and Accountability in Uganda”. The project is implemented by Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). The goal of the project is to increase media engagement, effective media coverage of issues of public service delivery and joint efforts in public awareness and engagement on governance issues in Uganda. To achieve the mentioned goal, the project has been carrying out a series of activities that: enhance the skills of transparency and accountability project implementers on aspects of media relations; strengthen the capacity of journalists; establish lasting relationships between media, transparency and accountability implementers and other actors. To that effect, SPIDER commissioned a local researcher to assess the needs of journalists and the results as well as the impact of CIPESA’s training activities towards increasing transparency and accountability. This article presents research results from a baseline study which is the first step of the research.

The purpose of the baseline was to provide a snapshot on the nature – quantity, quality and scope of the media coverage of issues of transparency and accountability in Uganda and identify training needs of journalists/media in coverage of transparency and accountability. The baseline study used a combination of research methods, including media content analysis of four major newspapers in Uganda, namely the New Vision, the Daily Monitor, the Independent and the Observer. Key informant interviews were done with purposively selected industry players – news editors and managers, and senior journalists. Content analysis focused on 3,657 stories pertaining to issues of transparency and accountability over a period of six moths – January to June 2017 in four sectors, namely the judiciary, local government, the police and health/medical services. These sectors and the lands sector were reported as the most corrupt. Findings show that the police was the most covered institution in media reports. Overall it was covered at 32.8% followed by the judiciary at 21.9%. The least covered was from services provided by the local government structures in Uganda (11.5 %).

Reporting formats and framing of media stories on transparency and accountability

  • The police 32.8%
  • The judiciary 21.9%
  • The local government 11.5%
  • Other institutions 33.8%

Sourcing for news on transparency and accountability

Majority (38.7%) of the stories were single sourced while 24.1% of stories had two sources. Only one in every five stories had more than three sources. When disaggregated further by gender, the findings show that men were the majority (71%) source of transparency and accountability news. The gender gap is wide. Media sources were further disaggregated by voices, to determine the nature of diversity. Voices in the news media are a very important aspect as they determine the amount of prominence attached to a given issue and who sets the agenda. Findings show that the majority of the sources’ voices were government officials (61%). The civil society had the least voices (7.1%). The baseline report notes that, “civil society members are shy and not confident to provide relevant quotes to the media, thus journalist are less interested in reaching out to the CSOs for comments or reactions to stories.” Voices of ordinary people on transparency and accountability news stories were reported at 14%.

Reporting formats

  • Issue-based format 23%
  • Event-based format 38%
  • Mixed reporting format 39%

The study examined whether the news stories were positive, negative, or neutral. Positive stories express a sense of hope and improvement in the state of affairs while a negative tone expresses a declining condition. Neutral stories do not make a judgement call. Majority of the stories (72%) were neutral. Negative stories were 17%. Three reporting formats were evident; event-based (event-triggered), issue-based (deeper discussions and analysis of a particular issue) and a combination of the two (event and issues). Findings show that 39% of journalists mostly used a combination of event and issue-based formats to report on issues of transparency and accountability whereas 38% used the event-based format, 23% used the issue-based format.

Considering the baseline findings, government officials have a bigger voice in the media, why is that so and what does this result imply? What can be done to balance the gender inclusivity in public dialogues? How can ordinary voices get more representation? How do we get journalists to focus more on the issues rather than events? Civil society and other minority groups such as women do not have the same privilege to occupy public corridors and contribute to a more transparent and accountable media. The baseline study recommends harnessing and strengthening the relationship between the media and civil society actors working on issues of transparency and accountability and building capacity of journalists and members of the civil society organisations and equipping them with the skills, knowledge and tools needed to engage in media issues.