Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) has awarded 10 journalists from local and national media at the climax of the 2-day symposium on National Road Safety and Mobility Symposium 2022 organised under the theme: Safe and Inclusive Public Transport in Uganda at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
CEBHA+ project under the Trauma, Injury and Disability Unit in the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health at MakSPH gave the awards in recognition of media’s contribution in raising mass awareness on road safety issues in Uganda. This initiative was taken for the first time to acknowledge and encourage journalism in road safety and transport sector.
The awardees included Mr. Ronald Musoke, a reporter at Uganda's Independent Magazine who was the overall best journalist in the Makerere Media Road Safety Reporting Competition 2022. Ms. Zurah Nakabugo, an Investigative Journalist the Observer came second for her enterprising story while Ms. Esther Makula, a reporter with online news channel Chimp Reports as the 3rd runners up. The three received a certificate award and a cash prize.
Other journalists who received the certificates in recognition of their exceptional work relaying information on road safety issues around the country are; Joseph Kato (Uganda Radio Network), Malik Fahad (Daily Monitor), Henry Mugenyi (NBS TV), Roland Nasasira (Daily Monitor), Mubarak Ssebuufu (CBS), Namale Hajara Shahista, Health reporter at Central Broadcasting Service CBS FM 89.2 Kampala, and Ms. Sarah Mawerere from Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC).
Globally, road traffic crashes are the single leading cause of death for people ages 5 to 29—claiming 1.35 million lives and causing an additional 50 million injuries each year. Road safety is not just a transportation challenge—it’s a public health crisis that must be addressed.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Dr. Olive Kobusingye, an Accident & Emergency surgeon and injury epidemiologist and the head, TRIAD Unit at MakSPH noted that media is a very powerful partner in road safety issues citing that we cannot hope to improve road safety, improve public transport unless we have adequate sensitization, unless we have good information and data appropriately shared.
“We look to the Media to provide this service. We have been privileged to work with a number of journalists over the years. There are those that cover our events but also, there are those that are out there covering issues around road safety, issues on crashes, among others. We have been concerned that road safety reporting be improved and that we be proactive in terms of prevention, said Dr. Kobusingye.
She urged journalists and media practitioners to always do in-depth stories with longer value in order to help the public appreciate the various issues surrounding road safety issues.
“No crash has a single cause. It might be that there was a very errant motorist, or someone was driving while drunk but also it might be that at the very spot where the crash happened, there was a problem with the road geometry. It might be that there was poor lighting of the road, maybe poor or inappropriate enforcement. So, usually, a number of factors conspire to cause such a situation. We expect that responsible reporting points out those and then also go into what could have been done to prevent the crash or what could have been done to improve outcomes for those that were involved in the crash. Usually. we would expect that they use multiple sources of information,” she added.
In 2021, MakSPH through TRIAD Unit and in collaboration media trainers held a media training in which we challenged journalists to go and report based on those principles.
Dr. Kobusingye further notes that articles were received from journalists from electronic, print and web media with reporting interests in road safety in Uganda.
She highlighted that whereas there are three outstanding journalists as per the selection, the role of journalism ought to be appreciated across.
“Journalists are amazing people. They are usually out in the rain, in the sun gathering these stories, they probably come to your offices looking for information, for data. Sometimes they have come their more than once to persuade you that they need that information, but really, they are making a big contribution to awareness raising and improving road safety, said Dr. Kobusingye.
She urged the various road safety stakeholders to always support the work of journalists by offering information and granting interviews. “I think you have seen improvements in reporting. In fact, the negative reporting that we see currently is done by non-journalists. We all have become journalists because we have smart phones. We therefore expect that the journalists that participated and are acknowledged are not just responsible reporters but also are ethical.”
Professor Rhoda Wanyenze, the Dean, MakSPH maintains that road traffic safety is a significant public health issue citing that the School was committed to creating evidence through research with support decision making with a view of improving road safety.
“Journalists are critical actors in public health, so important in communicating health information to communities, policymakers and other stakeholders! We should be intentional about engaging and involving them in the design and implementation of public health programs. I am glad our TRIAD is working with journalists and the media,” said Prof. Wanyenze.
Ronald Musoke, the overall best journalist in the competition posted on his twitter shortly after receiving the ward that he was super excited about this recognition. “It will spur me on to do even greater work to ensure that sanity returns on Ugandan roads!!” he said.
By Davidson Ndyabahika