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Machrine Birungi

Machrine is a deputy editor at the Uganda Radio Network.

She also works as a media trainer, and contributed to Uganda’s first-ever national diploma in journalism. She has been contributing to InterWorld Radio since 2005, focusing on human rights, health, HIV and AIDS, information and communications technology and gender.

In 1997 she won the Ministry of Information’s Best Reporter of the Year award for her coverage of the war in northern Uganda and in 2005 she was awarded first prize in the US Embassy in Uganda’s Radio Awards in the economic development category.

What inspired you to pursue a career in radio journalism?

I was initially inspired by my father. He always made me listen to the radio, especially in the evenings after doing the household chores. He would ask me to listen to the programmes and tell him what I had heard. Later on, he bought me a small radio that I would carry to school and listen to in my free time. Unlike the other teenagers, who were into music, I was always interested in news and stories about other places.

My father also helped me form a radio listening club, which brought young people together to listen to programmes and discuss what they had heard. I felt the power of radio to increase levels of awareness and provide information. So it was no surprise that when I completed university in 1997, I went straight to Radio Uganda (now the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation).

I began contributing to InterWorld Radio in 2005. I wanted to tell stories that are ignored or invisible to our media. IWR’s focus and style pushed me to tell the stories of the common man. I always feel relieved when I handle stories with human impact because then I know I’m communicating to people who identify with the issues that I’m covering.

What do you think of the Ugandan government criticising the press for focusing on sensational or negative stories?

I don’t think that the stories we tell are sensational. The media in Uganda is just growing and we are also grappling with the challenge of reporting intelligently, which perhaps means avoiding stories that are political or that pit one force against the other.

Sometimes I feel ashamed when I read a story with the headline ‘President blasts opposition’ on the front page of a paper and then find one saying ‘Farmers grapple with drought’ relegated to the middle pages.

The greatest challenge for the journalists is to sniff out a story that has an impact on the people, a story that affects the ordinary person; otherwise the politicians are just using us for their selfish gains. We are in an information era where our audiences should not be taken for granted by giving them garbage. A poor man wants information that can help him turn his life around.

Machrine has been published in The Guardian, Svenska Dagbladet (Swedish), and El Mundotwice (Spanish).

Journalism by Machrine Birungi

Rebecca Namayanja: fisherwoman


Rebecca Namayanja at a local fish market - Kabangala Mohammed | Panos London

As part of the Breaking Barriers series, we spoke to Rebecca Namayanja, who is taking on the traditionally male-dominated job of being a fisherwoman in Uganda.

“Meat and soda – that’s all we want for Christmas”


Machrine Birungi offers a tour of the financial problems that are effecting ordinary Ugandans as they prepare for Christmas this year. From the price of soda, meat and vegetables it may be a smaller celebration for many in 2010 as their shillings drop in value on the global market.

Herbal medicine: sorting healing from harm


In Uganda, herbal medicines and traditional healers are often met with scepticism from the medical establishment. But is there any evidence that they work?

Are ICTs empowering women?


The cell phone business is thriving in Uganda and many believe the information technology sector at large offers hope for poorer people. But what are women getting out of it? 

Why Africa needs to dance to its own tune


Musician Baaba Maal wants more of Africa's own artists at Live8 and for its own people to help Make Poverty History.

A wing and a prayer


Many coffee farmers in Uganda lost out when world prices dropped. In a bid to find a steady income some farmers left the beans behind – for fried grasshoppers.  

Are used computers a false economy?


African countries are eager to become players in the 'information society', but need money to invest in phone lines, computers and the internet. This is a matter of heated debate.