The Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University on 27th September 2019 concluded its week-long celebrations to mark 30 years with a grand dinner held at Hotel Africana, Kampala to fundraise for a Multimedia Production Resource Centre. The Centre expected to cost UGX413 million will house a Campus Television studio, radio production studios and a computer lab, to be used in the training of students, and for the improvement of the communication function within the University.
The fundraising dinner was presided over by Hon. David Bahati, Minister of State for Finance in charge of Planning, on behalf of the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda. It was graced by the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, alumni and friends of the Department, academics and media practitioners.
During the dinner, Prof. Monica Chibita, Head, Department of Mass Communication at Uganda Christian University, Mukono delivered a keynote address on the theme: Access to Information: A New Promise for Sustainable Development. In her presentation, Prof. Chibita noted that access to information was critical for democratic governance. “Access to information is important for internal governance and accountability. Citizens have a right to demand for information in custody of government and its agencies. It is not a favour but an entitlement. Government should therefore facilitate and not manage access to information,” she explained. According to Prof. Chibita, the right of access to information is a specific manifestation of freedom of expression. It is a manifestation of this freedom that is particularly important for the consolidation, functioning and preservation of democratic systems of government. However, the Government of Uganda has not fully guaranteed access to information. Government continues to manage than to facilitate access to information from its agencies.
Reacting to the presentation, Mr. Edward Sekyewa of the Hub for Investigative Media and Mr. Gilbert Sendugwa, the Executive Director of Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) decried the slow response to demands for information from government, a factor they said had undermined accountability in public offices.
Remarks from the Prime Minister and Makerere University officials
In his remarks read by Hon. David Bahati, State Minister for Finance in charge of Planning, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda congratulated the Department upon the milestone, noting that his office and other government agencies had greatly benefited from the expertise of practitioners from the Department. Highlighting the contribution of the profession to national development, the Prime Minister called for support towards streamlining communication in government agencies “As you celebrate 30 years of Journalism and Communication, I urge you to refocus the coming years towards supporting the government in our efforts to streamline communication. We have several excellent development programmes, whose uptake and appreciation among a substantial section of the citizenry remains low. As experts in communication, we ask you to approach us and propose ways in which we can streamline our communication. These suggestions should benchmark our intention to become a middle-income country, as highlighted in Vision 2040,” he appealed. The Prime Minister commended the initiative of the Department to set up a Multi-Media Production Resource Centre and pledged support towards its establishment.
The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe commended the Department for producing “high impact” human resource for the country. “As University Management, we are happy to see that the Department of Journalism and Communication has made great strides over the last 30 years. The Department has shaped the media industry in this region. We are equally happy that the Department is currently engaged in an innovative fundraising drive for the establishment of a Multimedia Production Resource Centre. As our broadcasting industry continues on its rapid growth trajectory, it is only fair that our students are exposed to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities while they are still on campus. I therefore wish to reassure you of our support in ensuring that the Multimedia Production Resource Centre is completed, furnished and made available for our students to use,” he said. Prof. Nawangwe promised to follow up on the licenses for Campus Radio and TV.
He thanked the alumni for expressing willingness to support the Department, and urged journalists to minimize negativity in their reports noting that “negativity” never builds a nation.
Like other speakers, the Principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr Josephine Ahikire applauded the Department for shaping the media industry in the country. “As a College, we are extremely proud of the Department’s achievements. The Department has been instrumental in shaping the Communication and Journalism industry in Uganda and the East African region in general. Over the years, the Department has produced influential scholars and practitioners who have gone on to become key journalism and communication trainers in others education institutions in Uganda and elsewhere in the East African region,” she noted.
The Dean, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, Dr Aaron Mushengyezi appreciated the Department for its contribution towards professionalizing the journalism and communication industry in the country. “In the past the industry was run by people who were not practitioners. There were many quacks abusing the trade - people who did not know the tenets of the profession and were not willing to subject themselves to standards. This changed when the Department was introduced,” he noted. He thanked Makerere University Management and development partners for their invaluable support towards the growth of the Department.
The Acting Head, Department of Journalism and Communication, Dr Adolf Mbaine highlighted the achievements registered in the last 30 years and thanked the government, development partners, Makerere University Management, the media industry and alumni for their continued support towards training activities in the Department. Introduced in October 1988 as a Unit under Literature, the Department has over the 30 years registered numerous successes. The Department has churned out over 2,000 influential alumni, many of whom currently holding high profile positions at local and international levels and greatly impacting the journalism, media and communication industry. The Department has also continued to build its capacity to manage programmes at all levels –Bachelors, Masters and PhD. Ten of its staff members are now PhD holders and three are concluding their doctoral research. The Department has also been involved in cutting-edge research and publishing in the fields of media, journalism and communication as well as community outreach. It is currently one of the recognised UNESCO Centres of Excellence in journalism training on the African Continent.
Dr Mbaine expressed gratitude to the journalism and communication industry for the continued support and advice on the programmes. “The Industry continues to advise us on our curriculum and to offer internship placement to our students. We are sincerely grateful for the support and pledge to continue working with you to take the Department to greater heights,” he said.
The fundraising dinner was spiced up with live performances by Undercover Brothers UG Band.
Other activities to mark the 30 years included a public lecture on ‘Journalism and Communication Education in the Era of Privatisation, Commercialisation and ICTs ’. The lecture was delivered by Prof. Goretti Nassanga, the first Head of the Department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University. In her remarks, Prof. Nassanga briefed participants on the evolution of the department and how liberalization affected the performance of the media industry in the country. She extensively explained how professional communication is crucial for good governance and development of nation states. Highlighting the achievements of the Department in the last 30 years, Prof. Nassanga appealed to the University Management to grant it School status. She emphasized that School status would enable them expand the scope of training to produce all-round practitioners to favorably compete on the global landscape.
The Department also held an exhibition for journalism and communication students to showcase their skills in news writing and editing, photography and news reporting.