VIKES is a Finnish acronym which stands for the Finnish Foundation for Media, Communication and Development. This organization provides training to journalists and educators working in the media field. Along with the Media Institute of Southern Africa’s Tanzania branch, or MISA-TAN, VIKES hosted an online investigative news gathering workshop March 17-19, 2014 at the University of Dar es Salaam Computing Centre, Arusha campus.
The three-day training was hosted by Finnish journalist Peik Johansson. I was invited to lend a hand to Johansson and MISA-TAN’s Research Officer Gasirigwa Sengiyumva. With the blessing of my NGO, Farm Radio International, my task was to provide support to the 14 journalists, as very few of them had any experience with web research. Johansson created a useful blog for the trainees with links to investigative journalism websites and general information called Arusha Journalists Investigating Online. This website is a useful tool for any journalist interested in investigative research.
When I was contacted a few weeks ago by Sengiyumva, who was my in-country coordinator at Journalists for Human Rights, or JHR, he asked me if I knew any local journalists who would benefit from this kind of training. I replied, yes, in fact, I do know two would benefit tremendously from it. The first person I suggested was Rotlinde Achimpota, a journalist at Mambo Jambo Radio, or MJ FM, who I’ve worked with extensively over the last year in Arusha.
I helped train Achimpota in basic journalism skills during my 6-month contract with JHR at MJ FM. Then four months ago, when Farm Radio was looking for a journalist to create a new weather report (Hali ya hewa in Swahili) ICT for mobile phones and local radio stations, I nominated Achimpota for the job and she was hired on the spot.
The second journalist I suggested was Clara Moita, a journalist at Arusha’s Radio 5. Farm Radio worked with Moita on her agricultural radio program called Fahari Yangu. I’ve had the chance to meet and write about Moita’s program. She frequently visits farmers in the field to understand the challenges they face every day. I thought this training would help her build more journalism research skills. But I guess the management at Radio 5 didn’t think she was the proper fit for this workshop, as I was told by Sengiyumva.
Unfortunately, gender parity wasn’t achieved, as only three out of the 14 trainees were women journalists. This is a common problem in Tanzania. Most media owners and management staff tend to send male journalists more often to training sessions, favouring them over their female counterparts. Thankfully, Achimpota was allowed to attend the three day training. Management at MJ FM appreciate the time I’ve spent, post-JHR, keeping in touch with staff and continuing my relationship with the radio station.
Day one of the training required Achimpota to start her own blog Matukio ya wiki (News of the Week) which is a nice compliment to her daily radio program Matukio ya siku (News of the Day). I was glad to see her pounding away at the keyboard for three days straight, honing her research skills and creating new blog posts. This was something I tried to do while working with MJ FM, but due to the lack of internet access at the station it wasn’t possible.
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I tried many times to arrange a day on the weekend, when I wasn’t working at the radio station, for us to meet at a local cafe with wi-fi to help her start a blog, but she could never find the time because she lives 30 km from Arusha, in USA river, and has three children to look after on weekends when they’re not in school. So, I settled for showing her how to post her radio documentary on the MJ FM Soundcloud page, which I assisted in creating.
Understandably, JHR stipulates trainers are not to bring technology into the placement that will not be left behind after the contract ends, as this would create a dependency for the journalists and the work would not continue once the trainer finished and left. At times I was frustrated, knowing I could easily bring my laptop and internet stick into the station and create a blog with her in a few minutes, but I realize she’d never be able to access it without me.
Achimpota speaks and writes primarily in Swahili, so this training helped her not only with investigative techniques and research skills. It also gave her confidence to write in English. She speaks English quite well, but does have problems expressing herself from time-to-time.
“I now know how to link to different websites and research important stories using the internet,” Achimpota said. “But there was a problem with the internet connection on my computer and I wasn’t able to save my final research story on press freedom in Tanzania.”