Media practitioners and communicators have been challenged to take an active role in promoting social justice through their work.
The call was made during the 13th East African Communication Association (EACA) conference, an annual event that brings together media practitioners and communicators from across the African continent.
Organised by the University of Rwanda’s School of Journalism and Communication, the three-day conference in Kigali revolved around the theme, ‘Media, Communication and Social Justice’. It ended on 31 August.
The conference sought to engage researchers and scholars in discussions about how the media and communication plays a role in addressing issues of social justice and how the media can give voice to the voiceless without harming anyone.
Keeping pace with transformation
Speaking during the conference, Dr Didas Kayihura Muganga, acting vice-chancellor of the University of Rwanda, challenged media practitioners and those working in the communication sector to keep pace with the transformation of the media landscape in order to promote social justice.
“Owing to the transition from analogue to digital media globally, practitioners have not kept pace with the media transformation bandwagon to make the best out of new ways in terms of social, political and economic inclusivity,” said Muganga.
“It would be better if modern media and communication found a place to include the treasure still existent in traditional media methods. Then we can avoid the risk of obstructing the very important roles the media has played traditionally in achieving social justice,” he added.
According to Professor Margaret Jjuuko, the conference convener, digital media has a huge impact on global communication trends and has an influence on democracy and social justice, particularly in the Global South.
“The current shift that we’re witnessing and the wider trends around these domains in many parts of the world, particularly the Global South, have impacted both positively and negatively on the roles of the media in the development of democracy and broadly feeding social justice into society,” she said.
Current trends and digital skills
She lauded the conference, saying it was an opportunity for participants to have a common understanding on the current trends in media and communication and how to better leverage available digital skills to improve social justice.
“This is a great opportunity for us to discuss our role as media practitioners and communicators in promoting social justice towards development and democracy in relation to the current social political economic environment, particularly in the Global South,” she added.
Dr Wilson Ugangu, the EACA president, reflected on the ongoing challenges facing the media and communication fields, emphasising the need to safeguard communication spaces for open debate and discussion on societal issues and ensure that all voices are heard.
“Today, there are many forces which continue to degrade and diminish our communication spaces … This year’s theme touches the core of our society and the challenges that our people face each day,” he said.
Improved ways of working
Dr Mamadou Ndiaye, a lecturer from Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar University in Senegal and a veteran media academic, highlighted the importance of the conference, saying: “This forum concerning journalism and communication is very interesting for us because it enables participants to acquire new experiences, share improved ways of working and it gives a chance for connections and partnership dynamics.”
The EACA was established in 2011 by a group of journalism, media and communication scholars working in the East African region.
It aims at building networks and harnessing synergies towards building capacity to change media environments in the region and Africa, while enabling the dissemination of research through the annual conference and a peer-reviewed journal, the African Journal of Communication, among other activities.