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UCU hosts East African communications conference with pandemic perspective

By Jimmy Siyasa and John Semakula
How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted East Africa’s media industry and training institutions?  The pandemic and its necessary and mandated safety protocols have yielded constant dialogue to discuss solutions for a new-normal of problems that have daunted the media and communication landscape, in Africa and all the world, since March 2020. Information has been shared and strategies applied by scholars, researchers and policy makers.

Enriching the discussion and response, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication (FJMC) will host the 10th Annual East African Communication Association (EACA) Conference, October 14-16, 2021.  The theme of the virtual conference is “Re-imagining Media and Communication in a Pandemic Context.”

The 2021 event seeks to “explore how media and communication actors can re-imagine and redefine the future of journalism and communication through critical conversation on media and communication industry in a context variously impacted by the Covid-19.” Media and communication experts, researchers, academics, policy makers, regulators and media practitioners from East Africa and beyond will speak. 

The keynote presenters and their topics are: 

  • Professor Guy Berger George, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO, addressing “Freedom of Information in Light of Covid-19 Media Dynamics;”
  • Professor George Morara Nyabuga, scholar from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, addressing “Law and Political Landscape of the Media;” and
  • Joel Kibazo, formerly Director of Communication and External Relations at African Development Bank, discussing insights and foresights on the future of the media and communication.

According to Dr. Emily Maractho, the Director of UCU Africa Policy Center, who also is Convener of the Conference, as many as 40 other presenters will share perspectives and replicable models before an audience of roughly 100 professionals working in the fields of journalism and communications and academics as well as students, among others. The conference will generate research papers and presentations for publication in such scholarly journals such as the African Journal of Communication.

PREVIOUSLY: At the 2016 EACA Conference, Professor Aaron Mushengyezi (right), UCU Vice Chancellor, then the Dean School of Languages, Literature and Communication at Makerere University, shakes hands with Frank Tumwebaze, former Cabinet minister of Information and Communications Technology. Courtesy Photo
PREVIOUSLY: At the 2016 EACA Conference, Professor Aaron Mushengyezi (right), UCU Vice Chancellor, then the Dean School of Languages, Literature and Communication at Makerere University, shakes hands with Frank Tumwebaze, former Cabinet minister of Information and Communications Technology. Courtesy Photo

Patty Huston-Holm and John Semakula, director and coordinator, respectively, for the Uganda Partners communications e-lab, are among the presenters. They will explain how this virtual university-NGO collaborative works with tips for how the model can be replicated by other non-profits and higher education institutions.

Reinforcing the value of student engagement, Dr. Maractho said, “Young people need to be involved in such Conferences so that they can learn how the experts they encounter during the conference succeeded in the field of Media and Communication.”

She says the organizing committee has discussed an exclusively subsidized registration fee for students, especially for those in journalism and communication, both at UCU and around Africa.

 “Hosting the conference is a sign of trust from communication academics in the region,” said Professor Monica Chibita, the Dean of FJMC at the university. “It gives us great opportunities to consider collaborative and comparative research across the region.”

That the 10th annual conference is happening virtually for the first time and UCU is hosting it is an indicator of confidence in the University’s E-service delivery capacity and infrastructure that has strengthened during the pandemic. 

“Opportunities to host such a huge conference elevates our branding, in that we are exposed to big, diverse networks of academics and institutions with whom we can create meaningful partnerships, because they now will know about UCU,” says Frank Obonyo, the Communication and Public Relations Manager at UCU.

More specifically, the conference also will attract regional publicity for UCU JMC not only as a giant at training world-class journalism and communication students, but also as an institution that continuously “re-engineers” themselves to meet the demands of the dynamic media industry.

EACA was established in 2011 to serve as a platform for media and communications experts, researchers, academics, policy makers, regulators and media practitioners in Eastern Africa and beyond. Since its inception in 2011, EACA conferences have happened in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. 

UCU FJMC is hosted this conference in 2016 in collaboration with the Makerere University Department of Journalism and Communication. However, it is the first time UCU is hosting the EACA Conference as a Faculty as it previously was a Department of Mass Communication under the Education and the Arts Faculty. 

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