On 2 October 2012 the European Journalism Centre (EJC) officially launched its multi-year programme in Kenya in cooperation with local partner AfricaonAir and Dakar-based journalism school E-jicom.
Funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the project targets a specific niche in Kenya’s media landscape namely, the lack of in-depth, well researched, compelling, and impactful stories on issues of development. It seeks to raise awareness of development issues through engagement with Kenyan journalists, editors, and society at large.
The three-day kick-off event, which took place in Nairobi, featured an intensive pilot workshop at the training facilities of AfricaonAir for ten print and broadcast Kenyan journalists from Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu that report on socio-economic, health, education, and poverty issues. Led by veteran BBC journalist and AfricaonAir trainer Joseph Warungu and former BBC/AFP journalist and director of E-jicom Hamadou Tidiane Sy, the workshop focused on practical reporting outputs and how to make development stories relevant and interesting to a wide audience.
The programme also made a strong overall case for reporting on development: “At a moment when everyone is saying ‘now is the time for Africa’ and development projects are burgeoning everywhere on the continent, the media has a central role to play” says EJC trainer Hamadou Tidiane Sy, “First of all, in holding governments accountable to citizens when implementing development projects and secondly in making voices of all stakeholders to be heard. To succeed in this task, reporters need to produce excellent, compelling, and timely stories while keeping with the highest journalism standards”.
In addition to direct capacity-building of Kenyan journalists the EJC’s programme in Kenya includes partnering with Project Syndicate, a non-profit newspaper network based in the Czech Republic, to develop a monthly editorial series featuring world renowned experts on development issues for publication in some of Kenya’s major media houses such as The Nation Group. By targeting Kenya’s decision-makers this way, the project seeks to create further awareness and advocate on development topics while placing them into a global context.
The project also supports AfricaonAir’s efforts to expand and deepen a network of Kenyan development journalists as part of a Pan-African initiative through regular joint activities all with the aim of increasing the quality and quantity of development news, especially at the local and community-based media level.
The timing of the project’s start is crucial: “Kenya has an ambitious development blueprint that aims to transform the nation into a newly industrialised, middle-income country, providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030. A new constitution is in place that sets up and guarantees the independence of key institutions and the media is expected to play a major role in advancing the development agenda.” says AfricaonAir Trainer Joseph Warungu. “Stung by the political violence that seriously disrupted social and economic life following the disputed 2007 elections, Kenyans are now extremely keen to have a peaceful general election in March 2013 so that they can focus fully on building their country. There is therefore an appetite and urgency for quality development content to support this process.”
The project is funded through the MFSII instrument of the Dutch Foreign Ministry in the Hague. It is part of a much broader global five year project entitled Press Freedom 2.0 that includes other Dutch media partners such as World Press Photo and Mensen met een Missie working in 11 countries on five continents.
“Our hope is that the strategies and training methodologies developed in Kenya for raising awareness of development issues can be utilised at the global level’ says EJC Kenya Country Manager Josh LaPorte, “so that civil society in other countries struggling to engage media on these important issues can learn from the Kenyan experience.”
For more information please contact Project Manager Marjan Tillmans.