- Analyzes the social context of the practice of citizen journalism in Africa.
- Assesses the technological basis of citizen journalism and its access limitations.
- Explores relevant and engaging content to gather and amplify citizen voices.
- Reflects on innovative news sources, such as citizen reporting platforms.
- Addresses quality controls and professional standards, in relation to citizen journalism.
- Evaluates the democratic value of citizen journalism, as a way of appreciating its transformative power.
Key points by Ioanna Georgia Eskiadi
Citizen journalism is a form of civic participation and a product of technological advances but also a response to the societal needs to broaden an insufficient or altered information space and make it more adaptable to people’s needs. It is important to analyse the digital context, create access to digital tools and to the ways that citizens use them, and to meet professional standards, but many African governments have been making this especially difficult as they control the media and build on transformative power. Citizen journalism is a resolution to the limited freedom of press and promising innovation in the media on the African continent. Many citizens believe the traditional press on the continent is under threat, with growing commercialization and government interests controlling content and concentrating ownership.
A lack of funding is growing which limits the ability to do investigative journalism. Citizen journalists provide, in this context, an opportunity to witness and report on issues affecting people’s daily lives and go directly to the people with the information. However, it is crucial to understand the social context where citizen journalists practice and the limitations on the access to the technology needed to acquire innovative news sources, such as citizen reporting platforms.
Press freedom and citizen journalism in Kenya are akin to the sustainability of journalism.
In Kenya, the freedom of press is celebrated in this challenging time when journalists face many issues including a struggling business model, the mental health of journalists, job insecurity, and the infodemic of fake news and disinformation. All these crises compound to a frustration among Kenyan citizens, a frustration in local media, and a need to access conclusive, unbiased news. Citizens often consume local news as they are looking for high quality information of the Covid-19 crisis and expect journalists to act as advocates of the community. Meanwhile, news media organizations cannot meet the expectations of their audience. Rise of citizens journalism has been particularly supported by social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Nowadays, the average citizen has a very low tolerance for inaccuracy in their news. They see grammatical errors, misrepresentation, and citizen journalists are able to express their opinions on these errors. Citizens can share their stories and videos directly through social media platforms where journalists and citizens are often on equal playing grounds. More frequently, misinformation and disinformation are frustrating citizen journalists. To combat disinformation, news media organizations and the mainstream media can identify opportunities for citizen journalism by creating institutions that are centralized on a community’s needs.
In Zimbabwe, mobile journalism plays an important role in citizen journalism. There are few radio stations and one television station, so citizen journalists feel a disparity in the production video content between their news media and the ability for individuals in their own capacity to record and share information. More recently, the government has been using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to silence the opposing voices in the media, but citizen journalists believe in a responsibility to disclose the needs of their communities to the greater public.
Citizen journalism provides diversity in the media content. In Sierra Leone, press freedom is an important foundation of citizen’s rights. Specifically in Sierra Leone, it is difficult for average citizens to reach the media, so mobile phones give power to citizens to tell and share their stories as it is crucial that people have the freedom to speak their minds. For example, young people with mobile phones have been able to capture instances of police brutality, share these instances, and tell the public what has been happening. People seek information that is credible and through citizen journalism people can express their views, discuss the issues they find important, and amplify their voices when the media has let them down.
- Natasha Kimani, Research and Media Program Lead, Africa No Filter, Kenya
- Sallu Kamuskay, Founder, Salone Messenger Sierra Leone
- Privilege Musvanhiri, Freelance Journalist, Zimbabwe
- Ruth Omar Esther, Freelance Journalist, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Dr. Njoki Chege, Director, Innovation Centre at the Graduate School of Media and Communications, Aga Khan University
- Emmanuel Yegon, Co-founder & Communications Director at Mobile Journalism Africa
- Aurra Kawanzaruwa, Director, Africa is Digital, Board Member Digital Communication Network Africa, Zimbabwe
As Research and Media Program lead, Natasha leads ANF’s efforts to connect and build the field of narrative changemakers and to make narrative evidence based and relevant to African conversations.
Natasha is passionate about the amplification of African voices and strongly believes that shifting harmful narratives will lead to increased positive attitudes, perceptions and beliefs about the endless possibilities and opportunities within the continent.
Before joining Africa No Filter, Natasha was the Head of Partnerships and Programmes at Shujaaz Inc. Prior to this, she was an Academy Fellow at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs where she focused on gender-responsive devolution in Kenya.
She has also held senior positions at the Kenya Law Reform Commission and the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution. A lawyer by profession, Natasha has extensive experience in public policy, constitution implementation, devolution and governance in East Africa. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Economics, Law and Politics and a Bachelor’s Degree in Law (LLB).
Natasha currently serves on the boards of Akili Dada and Mzalendo Trust.
Sallu was a child during the brutal war in Sierra Leone. Growing up in the midst of conflict, Sallu witnessed unimaginable abuse of children and gross violations of human rights. The horrors he witnessed during the civil war had a terrible impact on him at a very tender age. But despite the shock of the war, Sallu never lost hope. He started on a journey of recovery, studying and working for a better future. At age 15, Sallu entered into the world of activism and advocacy.
Sallu is co-founder and Executive Director of the Salone Messenger Multimedia and public Relation firm (SM). SM is a global platform for young people that brings young emerging leaders, bloggers, activists and storytellers to tell inspiring stories of change-makers and build a community of young people. Sallu has worked on various developmental and policy issues such as Poverty, Climate Change, Human rights, Child Rights, Education, Health, Gender Equality, Civic Engagement, Government policies, Information Communication Technology for Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, and has also been contributing to various global events and advocacy campaigns.
Privilege Musvanhiri is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Zimbabwe's capital Harare. He is a versatile journalist experienced in radio, television, online, print, mobile journalism and documentary photography. Privilege is also an experienced mobile journalism trainer. He has trained a number of citizen journalists in Zimbabwe to use mobile telephone applications to produce short documentaries and reportage. He is currently the Zimbabwe Deutsche Welle Freelance Correspondent. He has done work for various reputable international media houses including Aljazeera, ARD radio/television, Sky News among others.
Ruth Omar Esther
Ruth Omar Esther is a Christian. Congolese by nationality. Congolese freelance Journalist and a 2020 Media Challenge Fellow. Best technology report award winner at the inter university media challenge 2019. Haut Parleur reporter, reporter and news anchor at POLE FM/GOMA. she’s a storyteller and motivated by social justice storytelling.
Dr. Njoki Chege
Dr. Chege is the Director, Innovation Centre at the Graduate School of Media and Communications- Aga Khan University. The Innovation Centre is aimed at enhancing media viability in East Africa. Based in Nairobi, the center provides training, coaching and mentorship to media innovators in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Njoki has over 9 years’ experience in the media as a journalist, columnist and editor. As the Editor, Lifestyle (Pishi) at Nation Media Group, she was responsible for Pishi, an innovative lifestyle content project. Her research interests focus on media innovation and sustainability. She has previously taught graduate courses at Daystar University.
He is multimedia storyteller. He is the co-founder and communications director at Mobile Journalism Africa, a digital media outlet that seeks to change how Africa's narrative is told.
Aurra is a creative digital native with a broad portfolio of experience. She is the Executive Director and co-founder of AfriDigital Private Limited, a Zimbabwean startup whose mandate is to further the discussion and development of the 4th Industrial Revolution in relation to African economies. She currently serves as the School Principal of St. Anne’s Primary School, a private community school nestled in the heart of Harare West. She was recognized and awarded first runner up by the ZNCC Women in Enterprise Awards in the Social Enterprise category in 2018. In 2019, Africa Science Week (Next Einstein Forum & Purple Futures Trust) honored Aurra with an Appreciation Award "In recognition of (her) outstanding work and with sincere appreciation for (her) tireless efforts in using science and technology for the betterment of society.” She sits on the board of Digital Communication Network Africa, and was also a part of Oxfam International’s Global Strategy Advisory Forum 2020 contributing to the organisation’s global strategy for the next 10 years from a digital consciousness perpective.
The webinar is produced by Digital Communication Network Global, World Learning and Mobile Journalism Africa.