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‘Rap-orters’: telling the news in Uganda hip-hop style

Newzbeat's writer and producter Daniel Kisekka aka "Survivor" works on his laptop at the company's office in Kampala
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Challenging political leaders

Corruption is another favourite topic.

“All around the world this problem remains/The abuse so far is keeping people in chains,” rapped Kisekka in a bulletin on graft. “But lately some signs of hope have made the headlines/Of corrupt officials being handed heavy fines.”

Bwogi said, “NewzBeat” talked about corruption since graft was a major problem for Uganda.

“Sometimes if you want to be attended to… you need to pay a little something,” she said.

Often local reporters run into trouble trying to highlight this problem.

Uganda’s Human Rights Network for Journalists and other activist groups have repeatedly warned that the space for reporters to operate freely in the east African country is shrinking.

Last October, one journalist was ordered to pay damages or face jail after accusing a government official of corruption, and there have been other similar cases.

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Kabuye, 14, who has rapped on everything from the Egyptian single mother who spent 43 years living as a man to the national identification registration, said many of her friends are disinterested in the news.

“They used to say it’s boring, but when they see ‘NewzBeat’, they’re like ‘what’s the time?’” said the student, who has been rapping since 2009 and now juggles her “NewzBeat” commitments with her homework.

Kisekka, 40, said that in the beginning many viewers dismissed the show as “just entertainment”, but they have come to “appreciate the art form and start listening to the news”.

People were now taking rap more seriously, the artist said.

“It is not just talking about women and booze and all that, it’s delivering the news,” said Kisekka.

For the future, “NewzBeat” staff are looking at recruiting specialist “rap-orters” to cover fields such as science and technology. They are also keen to expand across Africa.

In Tanzania, a mini-season of four episodes recently aired and another four are set to run in the lead-up to the country’s elections, scheduled for October.

“Media belongs to the power of the day,” Bwogi rapped in one episode. “The Chinese have CCTV/the British have BBC/And we too are making our voices heard on NTV.”

AFP

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