Each week, frayintermedia highlights a journalist doing good work on the continent and honours them as our #FaveOfTheWeek. Meet Ugandan Betty Amamukirori, a New Vision journalist who reports on issues such as health, courts and parliament. She recently won the Breaking News award for her story “Armed gangs in Kween forcibly mutilating girls” at the Uganda National Journalism 2020 awards.
Q. How did you become a journalist?
A. I studied journalism and communication at Makerere University and during that period I used to write for the university newspaper.
Through the four years (of studying) I never envisaged that I would be a journalist, that I would join mainstream media.
But then during my final year at the university, as we were doing our final year projects, a thought came to my mind and I shared it with my best friend at that time. So I told her, "Why don't we go to a newsroom in any media house in the country and ask for a place to write?” We could write, I'd been writing, but I wasn't really sure of the quality of my work compared to the good stories that were published in the newspapers.
She was up for the idea. So we woke up one day and walked into the New Vision newsroom.
Q. What does winning the Breaking News Award at the Uganda Journalism Awards mean to you?
A. It really does mean a lot, especially for journalists who do hard news reporting, you know, most of the journalism awards tend to recognise issues of investigative journalism, beat-specific reporting, and features reporting. Normally, you find that journalists who report in the general field rarely get recognised.
So this award means a lot, not only for me but for other journalists who are in the news beat. It means that even as our works are being appreciated and are being recognised and it's quite encouraging. And I believe that many more journalists out there who are in the news reporting will get motivated.
Q. What stories should African journalists be telling more?
A. I think any story that highlights issues in the communities, issues that are affecting people in the society in this story that offer solutions, some of these issues is a story worth telling. So as a journalist or an African journalist, to be specific, I think we should be highlighting more stories on gender-based violence issues like domestic violence, sexual violence, issues of modern-day slavery, issues of kidnappings, issues of murder. These are some of the biggest issues that are affecting our society, that are affecting our women, that are affecting our girls.
These are issues that I've seen where many of our young girls are getting married at a very tender age, seeing many of our young girls and getting pregnant at a very tender age and dropping out of school and ending up having their dreams cut short. Those are the issues.
But I think we as journalists should be focusing our attention on issues of climate change. How is climate change affecting our communities? How is it affecting our lives? How is it affecting women? How is it affecting the children?
And how do we tell these stories and in the way that people understand? In a way that it empowers the people to come up with solutions? In a way that it calls on the stakeholders to take action? This is, I think, one of the second biggest issues that we as African journalists should be reporting about.
Then, of course, the other issue is the extractive industry. So many companies, so many countries are now focusing so much on oil and gas, but then how are our societies affected? How are our people affected? How are people going to benefit? From oil and gas, how is the bread going to be shared? Who is benefiting and who is not? The impact on health, how are these issues going to be mitigated, issues of employment?
I think these three are some of the stories that we should be telling as journalists.
Q. What’s the biggest payoff in being a journalist?
A. The biggest payoff for a journalist is not money, it's the satisfaction that you get in seeing that your stories are causing impact and that the people you wrote about in your stories are getting the help that they need. Having someone call you up early in the morning to say: "Thank you. I was dying, but your article saved me," is priceless, it's really priceless.
I can't compare it to anything, it gladdens my heart. It gives me peace in knowing that I'm contributing, that I'm the vehicle for that positive change. And people can trust me with their problems. They can trust me to bring about that change through my writing.
Why, despite all the challenges in the profession, do you stay in journalism?
A. I agree, journalism as a profession has a lot of challenges, right, from poor pay to intimidation by state authorities, intimidation by people who do not want to be exposed to intimidation by lawbreakers, sometimes arrests, sometimes abuse, and sometimes kidnappings. There is so much that can easily scare you off the profession.
But then, what keeps us going is the passion, the love for the job.
I think it's the satisfaction that really keeps us going, knowing that what we do is in one way or the other, helping our society, helping to address some of the issues that affect our societies. I love my work. I love what I do. I love journalism. And I pray that passion never dies. That it keeps going on because I feel that I was born to do this, and I hope to be better as time goes.
Is there a journalist you would like to see featured as a #FaveOfTheWeek? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.