Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

International Justice/ICC: Jun/Jul '11 Part I

Journalists set to benefit from long term on-the-job training as they begin third series of Facing Justice radio programme.

IWPR has joined up with a local media development organisation, the Northern Uganda Media Club, NUMEC, to launch a year-long apprenticeship scheme for three of its reporters in northern Uganda.

The project will see reporters work on the third series of Facing Justice - Uganda, IWPR’s established radio project covering justice and redevelopment in the post-conflict northern region.

Three IWPR reporters will be based at a newly-built newsroom and production studio at NUMEC in the northern town of Gulu.

The town was at the centre of the two-decade long war with the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, LRA, and has proved a to be a hub of local and international efforts to promote reconciliation and justice in the north. Uganda’s first war crimes trial of the only alleged LRA commander captured so far got under way recently at Gulu’s High Court .

The IWPR reporting team consists of Bill Oketch, Arthur Okot and Gillian Lamunu. They will research and produce the bi-monthly investigative programme Facing Justice, while receiving extensive, on-the-job training from NUMEC radio producer Moses Odokonyero and IWPR Senior Reporter Simon Jennings.

Two weeks into the new project, the reporters are enthusiastic about the year ahead.

“Before joining the IWPR programme, I thought I knew it all, but the first two weeks have proved that I was a big fish in a small pond,” Gillian Lamunu, who comes from a local radio station, said. “In applying for the IWPR job, I wanted to explore new heights in radio production, and I have certainly not been disappointed. These first two weeks have been better than journalism school to me because of the various lessons intertwined with the actual work.”

IWPR’s established network of reporters across northern Uganda will continue to file reports for Facing Justice. Correspondents in the towns of Lira, Soroti, Kitgum and Arua provide fortnightly input to the programme, giving Facing Justice its unique local perspective on post-conflict issues affecting different parts of the north.

Our local project partner, NUMEC, is a community-based organisation that promotes professional journalism in the region and uses media to keep people in northern Uganda informed on issues that affect them.

“We welcome NUMEC’s partnership with IWPR,” Moses Odokonyero, the head of the organisation, said. “IWPR is bringing in a wealth of international experience in journalism and journalism training, while NUMEC works closely on local issues in northern Uganda. The ultimate beneficiaries will be the reporters and the Facing Justice listeners who will have a high-quality programme on their local radios, addressing issues that concern and affect them.”

The intensive training and technical facilities provided by IWPR and NUMEC are expected not only to further develop the skills of the reporters involved, but also continue boosting capacity at partner radio stations across the region.

Bill Oketch, who previously reported for Facing Justice from his home town of Lira, said, “Through the knowledge and skills that I have acquired, I have also been able to educate my fellow reporters on how we can use our profession to better the lives of our people who suffered harm during the conflict in the north.”

IWPR has been producing Facing Justice since September 2009. The programme is a 25-minute radio magazine featuring news, interviews and analysis, with a focus on justice and human rights issues in the wake of the LRA war.

The majority of the 1.8 million people displaced by the conflict, which began in 1987, have returned home from displacement camps across the region. As a tentative environment of peace and stability takes shape, Facing Justice provides a valuable source of information and debate about essential daily issues, as northern Ugandans seek access to basic services, as well as about various forms of post-conflict justice. Areas investigated by Facing Justice reporters include access to education and health services, upholding the rule of law, and the ongoing debate around possible justice and reconciliation measures in the wake of a brutal war.

Mega FM, Radio Rhino, Voice of Teso, Radio Palwak and Radio Pacis broadcast Facing Justice in English and local languages. The programme is translated into Luo, Ateso and Lugbara and reaches an estimated audience of four million people.

The first programme in the new series – due to air in the first week of September – investigates the lack of a comprehensive witness protection programme in Uganda’s justice system. Legal and human rights experts say Uganda urgently needs to adopt laws on witness protection as it begins the first war crimes trial of alleged former LRA commander Thomas Kwoyelo.

“When our first programme airs, it will give the local population of northern and eastern Uganda a full analysis of the situation at hand, compared to the regular radio news which leaves listeners yearning for more information,” Lamunu said.

Upcoming episodes of Facing Justice will investigate the effectiveness of a programme to reintegrate people who were abducted by the LRA and have now returned from the bush. Facing Justice will also look at the role that memorials play as a restorative measure for those who lost loved ones in the conflict.

“Our listeners have benefited a lot because we tend to identify issues that affect them and report about those issues in-depth and professionally. This way we have been able to restore hope in the lives of our people,” said Oketch.

IWPR is also partnering with a local legal awareness organisation, the Centre for Reparation and Rehabilitation. The centre will conduct legal awareness workshops for IWPR’s reporters and local community leaders, focusing particularly on questions of gender-based violence and domestic abuse that are causing particular problems in the post-conflict environment. A series of workshops will enable reporters and community leaders to promote efforts to protect the rights of women affected by conflict, by reducing discrimination and violence against them as communities return to their villages.