The Media Institute of Southern Africa in Swaziland (MISA-Swaziland), an NGO that promotes freedom of speech, is working with human rights organisation COSPE to train journalists on election coverage in the lead up to national vote, scheduled for August 2013.
The training will encourage the participating journalists to seek out the human stories and to report these stories accurately and fairly. Focus will be on listening to the voices of women, as research shows male voices make up about 80 percent of sources in the Swazi media.
The training will be practical. Journalists will be taken into different communities, interviewing real people with real stories. The emphasis is on ‘learning by doing’. In this case, learning by doing journalism.
Journalists will be encouraged to assert their independence and practice their craft in a real world environment. That is, working amongst people, viewing and understanding how daily life is lived, and comparing this daily life to the official statements of government, international agencies and non-governmental organisations.
The training also aims to encourage journalists to overcome censorship and self-censorship (not a small problem in Swaziland), thereby allowing them to get at the truth.
Each ‘training outing’, almost like a field trip, will be a mixture of theoretical training and on-the-job practical work, whereby individual journalists are free to simply be journalists. After a brief morning discussion, where journalists are shown examples of good reporting and are able to see what makes it good reporting — accuracy and balance, always aiming to report the truth in a fair way — they are then taken into different communities where they can put this knowledge into practice.
During this morning discussion the reporters will be given a copy of the SADC election coverage guidelines, developed by delegates from all the MISA offices in southern Africa in late 2012, and will be directed to important sections of these guidelines: reporting the truth, being honest and fair, checking facts and verifying allegations. And, as mentioned, due to the current under-reporting, added emphasis will be on hearing the voices of women and reporting these voices in an unbiased way.
The stories, proper news stories, that emerge from each ‘training-outing’ will likely appear in the reporters’ respective newspapers and magazines.
A pilot training day was held on Tuesday 16 April, 2013, in the town of KaShali, near the commercial capital Manzini.
Five print journalists and one recently graduated journalism student all met at MISA-Swaziland’s office in Mbabane. MISA and COSPE staff briefed them on the day and gave advice on how to report accurately and fairly in the lead up to elections; all the while keeping in mind the fact that male voices dominate the news media in Swaziland, reminding the journalists that good reporting demands a variety of voices and more of a balance between male and female sources.
From the MISA office, COSPE vehicles drove the journalists to KaShali where the they met local residents and began interviewing and finding stories…
Several journalists who took part in the training day at KaShali wrote stories after interviewing local residents. Here are some photos of the articles which appeared in their respective newspapers:
MISA-Swaziland and COSPE will be running 11 more on-the-job training days for Swazi journalists before the national elections in August 2013.
The next two training days have been set for May 21 and May 28.
The aim for the whole project, over the 12 sessions, is to expose about 30 journalists to this type of training. Print journalists from the two daily newspapers, Times of Swaziland and Swazi Observer, and also the monthly magazine The Nation, will receive the first round of training. If all goes to plan, there are thoughts to involve editors, students, and radio and TV reporters down the line.
COSPE, an italian-based human rights NGO, is funding the project. MISA-Swaziland are providing the training.