Educators Should Contextualise Universal Journalism Values In The African Context

Over 100 journalism educators from across Africa have over the past two months shared their views on what excellence in journalism education means, as part of a series of online regional consultations organised on behalf of UNESCO.

The consultations were part of a project by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication to promote excellence in journalism education in Africa. The activities are funded by the Google News Initiative and are being implemented by the Wits Centre for Journalism together with the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University in South Africa.

Through engaging journalism educators, the project is developing a set of criteria for excellence in journalism education that can be used by journalism schools, colleges and NGOs to self-evaluate their education and training programmes. It includes a small grants component where institutions that self-evaluate according to the final criteria will be invited to propose a project to attend to gaps in their education programmes that they have identified.

Five consultations in East, Southern, West, Central and North Africa took place during March and April, with the final consultation with North African educators taking place on April 26th. Specific issues faced by educators were discussed during these events, revealing many similarities in the challenges faced between the regions. These included concerns about:

  • The safety of female journalists;
  • The absence of practising women journalists who can serve as role models for students;
  • The lack of proficiency of some students in a country’s lingua franca alongside the challenge of teaching journalism in indigenous languages;
  • Journalism ethics;
  • Teaching accuracy and fact-checking; and
  • The need to equip students with the skills to understand the business side of news-making and to run their own media operations.

“We need to train journalists to be entrepreneurs. This will enhance journalism in terms of editorial autonomy and will create a space for ideas without gatekeeping and censorship.” Lizzie Wantchami Nengieh, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Buea.

While teaching students how to fact-check was important, some felt this needed to be broadened to running Media and Information Literacy courses in journalism schools, equipping them with skills all journalists needed.

“MIL in my opinion is teaching and training about media so the focus is on preparing active recipients to deal with information, media and technology, who would know what they want and how they can reach this. This concept is almost absent in the curriculum of journalism institutions in Libya.” Nada EbkooraFact-check and MIL audiovisual producer, Truth Seekers Center in Libya.

Most participants felt that while there were global principles of journalism that needed to be taught, educators also needed to contextualise these principles so that they were responsive and sensitive to the socio-economic and political landscapes in countries and regions. “Journalism is a social, political and cultural activities that must be linked to the issues of our respective countries,” said Abdellatif Bensfia, Director of Institut Supérieur de l’Information et de la Communication (ISIC) in Morocco.

Laeed Zaghlami, from the Faculty of Information and Communication at Algiers University, agreed: “I would say that there are common values for excellence in journalism education everywhere and equally there are some specificities related to North Africa in terms of politics, religion, culture and language. There are objective and subjective values to be considered.”

While there were universal journalism values, “journalists should contribute to social cohesion, be actors of peace … The stakes may vary depending on the political, economic and social issues in a given country,” said Moise Nkubehinda from Université Bilingue du Congo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

UNESCO

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