Catholic Journalists and Media Practitioners toward an Integral Ecology

CAMECO joined the discussion of communicators acting for sustainable development, exploring the role of journalists in building better informed communities at the UCAP conference held last November 2023 in Kampala

On her first trip to the African continent as CAMECO desk officer, Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos joined the Pan-African Refresher Programme in Uganda on integral ecology, promoted by the African Catholic Union of the Press (UCAP), where she delivered a presentation about CAMECO’s work and services and conducted a coaching session on how to plan and develop communication and media projects.

The conference was held in Kampala from 6-11 November 2023 under the theme “Contribution of Journalists and Media Practitioners toward an Integral Ecology” following Pope Francis’ Encyclical

Courtesy from UCAP/Ugand

Laudato Si. Among the participants were journalists, communicators, and other professionals from Ghana, Nigeria, Oman, Brazil, Germany, Togo, and Uganda acting for sustainable development.

The main purpose of the event was to “strengthen the capacities of media professionals and propose effective approaches to solving environmental problems which are integral to the sustainable development of the African continent” as stated by Charles Ndawula, President of UCAP-Uganda. The UCAP is a continental organisation dedicated to promoting communication and responsible journalism within the Catholic Church and its partners in Africa.

Role of communication in raising awareness

In a keynote speech delivered online, Dr Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, Vatican City, addressed the participants by emphasising the importance of the role of communication in raising awareness of the “epochal challenge we face and the role that each of us has in overcoming it together.” Dr Ruffini also called for joint action to fight against disinformation.

During the sessions, participants discussed the ecological crises in their countries and regions – such as the effects of climate change, pollution, flood, devastation of forests – and their social impacts.

In addition, participants reflected on ways and means to create a pan-African media start-up to promote an integral ecology on the continent.

Media as allies

“Bad news is good news,” participants agreed. The question of how to change the narrative and the framing of stories and promote public debate on issues of the common good permeated discussions throughout the week.

The role of journalists in building better informed communities was highlighted. Their responsibilities as professionals range from providing reliable information, raising awareness, creating collaboration between stakeholders, to the ability to carry out long-term reporting and following-up on stories of public interest.

The participants expressed their commitment and enthusiasm to develop innovative and creative projects “contributing to actions to promote an integral ecology with a view to sustainable development,” stressed Charles Ayetan, President of UCAP.

Challenges and needs

During the discussions, Ortiz dos Santos asked the communicators about the existing challenges faced when attempting to report on in-depth human stories in their contexts. Journalists overall expressed difficulties in accessing information and cross-checking facts. Safety concerns when reporting on sensitive issues were also raised.

When it came to the needs faced by the journalistic community, they called for more comprehensive training on reporting techniques. Participants emphasised the importance of sharing and exchanging experiences from journalists across the continent.

Additionally, they voiced the need to deepen partnerships and create synergies between media actors, donors, and civil society stakeholders.

During her week in Kampala, CAMECO’s desk officer visited the newsroom of the Leadership Magazine and the Laudato Si Centre, established by the Comboni missionaries in Uganda in January 2023. She also visited the Uganda Catholic Secretariat, the premises of Radio Sapientia, which has been running for more than twenty years, and the newly founded Uganda Catholic Television (UCTV).