Fortunate′s mix of gossip and hard news | #mediadev - media development insights and analysis | DW | 01.12.2016
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People using media

Fortunate's mix of gossip and hard news

Ugandan university student, Fortunate Nagawa, is a consummate media consumer who loves celebrity gossip, music and hard news.

Fortunate Nagawa is a final-year journalism student in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The 22-year-old spends a lot of time using the media, she says, not only because of her studies but because she wants to know what is happening in her community. 

Luckily for Nagawa, she lives in the capital, where the Internet is accessible and relatively reliable and she has access to newspapers and TV. It's a different story in rural areas of the East African country; newspapers often don't make it that far, and television and Internet coverage is limited (as is power to run TV sets and phones). 

Nagawa's favorite newspaper is the English-language tabloid "Kampala Sun". 

"I like the gossip section, they give us youth what we want," she says. "They focus on public figures and their private lives and a lot of stuff that we don’t know about these celebrities."

She regularly listens to the radio as well (her favorite stations are those with good music) and she loves watching gossip segments on TV. As well as entertainment shows though, she also catches the news every evening, watching both national news in English and community news in Luganda, the main language spoken in Uganda. 

Internet addict 

Nagawa says like many young people in Kampala, she "can't live without the Internet" because it's her main source of information. She constantly uses her smartphone to check Facebook, read online news sites, check out the latest fashion and search for information on Google. 

Although the Ugandan government has arrested several online users because of political content, Internet freedom in Uganda has not been subject to the same pressure as traditional media – something that Nagawa notices, saying she tends to trust information she finds online more. 

Although she doesn't think the Internet is all good. On the one hand, she says, it makes "communication so easy." On the other hand, she doesn't like the amount of junk posted to her and her friends’ Facebook walls. And she especially doesn't like the exploitation of women that she sees online, where naked bodies and pornographic images are everywhere. 

Uganda has one of the highest Internet penetration rates in sub-Saharan Africa, with 40 percent of its population having access to the Internet, mostly via their mobiles. Nagawa uses about 1 GB of Internet data at month, which costs her 34,500 Ugandan shillings or about nine euros ($10 a month). This is relatively expensive, considering the average monthly income in the country is around 52 euros a month. 

"I spend a lot of money buying Internet data bundles and newspapers,” Nagawa complains. 

Partial media freedom 

Nagawa notices a number of problems with media freedom in Uganda – the laws protecting journalists, she says, are weak and easily abused by authorities. "In Uganda journalists are tortured and sometimes threatened. That needs to change and journalists should be left to do their job," says the journalism student. At the beginning of 2016, for example, many journalists were threatened, harassed or even attacked in the lead up to Uganda's February 2016 elections


Written by Alex Gitta

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