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Citizen journalism a must for every society

Citizen journalism a must for every society

The Lake zone regions, including Mwanza, Musoma, Kagera and Shinyanga are now leading in terms of extending Citizen Journalism in their communities. 

The reason is obvious because it has been established that domestic violence and other forms of human rights violations are rampant in these areas. 

While Citizen Journalism is gaining momentum in that part of the country, it is expected that those who are trained in this field will serve as watchdogs of the society and the nation at large. 

The group of youth who have continued to train including students, school leavers and domestic workers is a force to reckon with in their communities.   This force which is given community reporting skills will be entering a very controversial field at a time when the public scrutiny is critical on the integrity of journalists. 

The statement issued by Kivulini Women’s Right Organisation indicated that the youth will, among other things, learn on the issue of integrity and ethical matters that either make or destroy journalism profession.  What is the advantage of creating more citizen journalists in the country? First and foremost such training is essential and crucial in exposing those who perpetrate acts of violence and barbarism in some communities. 

For example, there are many cases of domestic violence which are not reported because of those (unscrupulous) in authority either defending or protecting the culprits.  Sometimes the gender bias and other forms of stereotypes contribute to such acts of violence being condoned without any corrective measures taken. 

The “Daily News on Saturday” and The "Sunday News” last year reported shocking incidents of domestic violence and other domestic abuses including mistreatment of housewives, assaults on women, use of weapons including sharp objects to punish women for no apparent reason in Lake zone regions especially Musoma.  

There was also an abduction of an activist who later was found in critical condition being drugged.  According to Kivulini Women’s Rights Organisation Director, Ms Maimuna Kanyamala the training took place recently in Mwanza, where 20 youth including students and activists were given a chance to learn the importance of Community Journalism. 

“We have organized training for them to impart skills on how to develop sources in their communities, research, develop rapport with sources, conduct interviews and write news stories of high quality which will later be posted on Kivulini website,” she said. 

The course which was conducted for five days opens a new window of opportunity for the youth to use writing skills to bring change in their communities, through critical and analytical reports that they will be producing for Kivulini and other news outlets in the country, which will develop interest in citizen journalism or reporting in the future. 

It is worth noting that the effort in training citizen journalists as manifested in the Lake zone regions since last year, when Afya Radio FM based in Mwanza, which advocates for psychological, social and physical well-being of residents in the Lake zone regions, deserves our commendation and support.  It was only last year when Afya  radio introduced Citizen Journalism training for domestic workers in a quest to boost coverage on domestic violence.

Some media experts describe citizen journalism as a new philosophy which aims at training ordinary people to report events happening in their communities.   It is another way of creating whistleblowers.  Speaking on the importance and relevance of community journalism, the Director of the FM radio, Dr Joseph Kavit, remarked that besides the programmes addressing social issues that can bring psychological problems that often culminate in mental disorder, it continues focusing on domestic violence.  

''We have so far produced domestic violence documentaries in different areas, airing first hand testimonies of victims who suffered at the hand of abusers,'' he said. He also said that if the training is extended to a wider coverage, more people will be able to report violence. ''After every documentary we are able to stimulate dialogue and set the agenda,'' he said.   But before it was introduced in the country, many of us thought this was a far fetched idea to introduce citizen journalism in the country.

These two organizations have shown us the way and it is worth that other media houses and other civil society organizations look into the possibility of supporting this effort worth undertaking to make citizen journalism popular in the country.   For example, drawing some lessons from South Korea with its 65,000 contributors, the Korean news organisation 'OhmyNews,' which is behind  promoting citizen journalism is not just one of the biggest in the world, but also one of the most established since it was launched back in 2000.  

There's a staff of 70 with 55 editorial positions including traditional roles such as reporters and editors working on contributions that are all fact-checked and edited. Seventy per cent of what's submitted by this army of contributors ends up being published on the site.  But the reason for its growth could be unique to that region of the world, explained Andrew Gruen. 

Speaking at an event organised by the  Online News Association in London last year, Andrew Gruen said it was important to understand the history to appreciate how the country had got to its current situation.  The country's huge economic growth since 1961 was assisted by massive investment into technical infrastructure which means that access to broadband is now pervasive – apartments have "cyber building certificates" to market the speed of their services, 4G connections in taxis and no nook or cranny that doesn't get a service. 

Another model on citizen journalism is from CNN which adapted a similar approach namely reporting following the Katrina disaster that occurred in the US. Reporters were instrumental in sending images, video clips and voices plus text keeping CNN viewers updated on the unfolding story of the disaster, where CNN reporters could not reach. 

So there is no doubt that all the conditions that have prevailed in other continents where the citizen journalism gained ground currently exist or might exist in the country. We won’t regret promoting citizen journalism which is another defensive mechanism of fighting all forms of violence and sharing best development practices. 

The government has said completion of the 15 ...

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Mwandishi: JAFFAR MJASIRI

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