In the belly of the beast – editors of leading media establishments in Southern Africa discuss the devastation of Covid 19 on the media industry and the implication on it’s viability

On the 13th of April I got the priviledge of facilitating a seminar on the important topic of media viability. This webinar was one of three webinars organized by the Southern African Editors Forum (SAEF) on behalf of UNESCO as precursors to the 2021 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) celebrations in Windhoek on May 03. The webinar(s) were aimed to help SAEF to shape what is to go into another ground-breaking Windhoek +30 Declaration.

As industry experts with long experience in jopurnalism practice, the editors’ insights were timely and impactful.

The webinar on: “The viability of media (in times of covid 19 and dominance of oligopolies) and their role in the production and sharing of information”  was joined by a panel of 8 chapter chairpersons of SAEF and leading journalist associations from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As industry experts with long experience in journalism practice,  their insights around the topic were timely, valuable and insightful.

There was a general acknowledgement in the discussions of the perilous status of the core media ecology before the onset of Covid 19. Already, before the pandemic, the media industry in Southern Africa and indeed globally had been struggling with existential challenges including but not limited to: steadily dwindling income from advertising (as traditional economic models were increasingly becoming obsolete), declining buying audiences, listeners and viewers, dominance of media oligopolies and tech companies such as Facebook and Google that squeezed out many small, private, public interest media outlets and lack of trust and credibility in the traditional media. All this amidst rapid and consequential shifts in digital and online communication/platforms i.e. social media use, citizen journalism etc.

Within this context, the Covid 19 pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for the industry and profession – no wonder some commentators have referred to this moment as ‘a media extinction event’ or ‘ a Darwinian moment’ – reflecting the nature and scope of the devastating impact of Covid on the media and its viability. The webinar discussions helped unpack, with examples from the different countries, some of these existential discourses, highlighting not just the challenges but also opportunities. We wound up the discussion with a call to action and way forward.

SUMMARY OF CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

From the discussion, it was clear no country-media was left untouched by this devastation and the issue of media viability was a great concern.

Covid 19 heightened the already debilitating existential challenges faced by legacy media. From the discussion, it was clear no country-media was left untouched by this devastation and the issue of media viability was a great concern. From the discussions, the biggest challenge to media viability were of an economic nature. At a media outlet level – all panelists reported gross loss of income, closure of several newsrooms – some temporarily and others permanently and several media outlets had to adapt lean and mean structural changes to remain afloat. During the eye of the pandemic (i.e. lock down) several of the media houses assumed a survivalist mode. At a professional/individual level – panelists painted a troubling picture, including: massive laid offs, salary cuts (some up to 100%), canceled annual leaves and so on. Freelancers and photojournalists, often working without contracts and adhoc were the hardest hit and the dire consequences of these developments and their detriment to audiences/citizenship/democracy were aired out. The wellbeing of journalists and their mental health as fundamental to media viability was also discussed as well as the changing roles of journalism education institutions. Several of the panelists shared innovative ways in which the media in their countries (e.g. Southern Africa) and regionally (SAEF) responded to the devastation of Covid including for instance the establishment of relief funds to assist struggling journalists. This kind of help was however dependent on transparency and clear criteria for distribution.

Who were the winners and loosers?

Also, a clear picture emerged of winners and loosers. Print media i.e. Nnewspapers and magazines were clear losers as the print economic model of sustainability (i.e. advertisements and sales-heavy) became unsustainable especially during lock-down. Small, community and private media were also among the losers for same reasons.

About the winners – the loss of paying customers among legacy media reflected in the high migration of audiences to broadcasting media and the proliferation of online media consumption especially of Print versions of legacy media and multinational tech-companies like google and Facebook – which became primary sources of information. On a positive note, the migration to online versions of legacy media meant that people still found these media credible and trustworthy especially at critical times such as during the pandemic. Despite that, our panelists pointed out that, the heavy migration to online channels did not bring with it revenues as people enjoyed free credible information. It is left to these organizations to harness these new audiences, listeners/readers into paying customers and also find innovative ways to sustain these users in the long term (Post-Covid). And as for the international tech-companies like Facebook and Google that consumes majority of adverts –  panelists called for multi-actor dialogue and concrete ways to balance the economic dividends-issue.

Other than the economic variable to media viability, the discussants highlighted other factors such as the political aspect calling attention to legislation and sometimes draconian bills aimed at impeding Freedom of expression and journalists’ fourth estate roles; We also discussed technological issues which include infrastructural-outreach and the digital divide. Media content and information as a public good is also another factor to consider for a viable media – importance of credible, transparent and trustworthy media cannot be underestimated. Lastly, community issues that affect participation of citizens’ engagement in media discourses play an equally important role in media viability.

WAY FORWARD

We wrapped up with a call to action for media viability on short and long term – targeting the broader media ecosystems: Governments, media houses, journalists, corporates, citizens, etc.The viability of the media would require combined efforts including: Economic: identifying creative and innovative models that build on the third revenue stream (as ads and sales are rather ineffective). Political dimensions – proper policies to guide the way forward and those that do not impede on freedom of expression. Technological – the digital migration also highlights challenges of infrastructure deficits and the digital divide that affects majority of rural African populations – these need to be sorted for long term media viability. Content-wise – a credible, trustworthy media that stands on the foundations of verifiable, transparent, public interest, independent and pluralistic principles will stand the test of viability and finally Societal co-creation of media content that incorporates principles of participation and engagement and media literacy were seen as important for media viability. NOTE: Research is needed to assess the true magnitude and nature of the covid pandemic devastation.

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Ugandan Police brutality heightens as 2021 election draws closer – journalists as targets and what this means for democracy

"We have been beating journalists to restrain them from going where there is danger. Police beat journalists to help them...for their safety. When a police officer tells you to stop, you must stop for your own safety. I will not apologize for police actions" - Martin Okoth Ochola, Inspector General of Ugandan Police.

This week, on the 14th of January 2021, Ugandans will go to the polls to elect a president and other leaders. As a media and polical observer, two things stand-out this election season. The first, the obvious is, we are experiencing an unprecedented global pandemic whose impact and influences on electoral politics and media coverage is worth noting. The second is the impunity and blatant escalation of abuse of journalists covering elections and especially those covering the opposition candidates.

Arguments that the incumbent President (35 years in power and counting) has weaponized covid-19 to curb dissent and the proliferation of opposition politics is evident for any critical followers of the campaign trails. Police brutal and heavy-handed implementation of Covid 19 standard operation procedures (SOPs) for elections has been unevenly targeted at mainly 2 of the most popular presidential candidates: Kyagulanyi and Amuriat, their followers and any journalists covering their events. The unbalanced harassment and torture of opposition – yes, journalists are percieved as opposition – is blatant when juxtaposed with the incumbents calm, jubilant and closely packed political rallies and journalist freedoms that openly go againsts SOPs.

This electoral season has also seen an escalation in the torture and harrassment of journalists. Several journalists covering opposition candidates rallies have either been murdered, beaten into coma, threatened, blocked from covering events, stalked, their equipment either confiscated or damaged, arrested and jailed, sued. The chilling effect of all this is its impact on democracy. For one, the fear of harrassment leads to the more dangerous information black-out exactly when the fragile nation needs timely, factual and relevant information for them to make vital and informed decisions. Secondly, this harrassment has resulted into an information draught on matters that matter. The resultant skewed media coverage heavily focusing on police violence and less on a differentiated policy coverage of key campagn issues is a de-service to democracy. As such we do not know much about ALL the candidates and what they stand for as the violence against citizens and journalists has overshadowed media coverage. Ponder on this – what recourse do citizens have when denied any avenues to express their grievances? The analaysis on the single female candidate is a matter of another post.

Exactly 1 month ago today the 10th of December 2020, The Media Council instituted a dubious regulation demanding that all journalists covering elections must be re-registerd, for accreditation – merely a few days to election day. The argument was to protect them and fight fake news. But why now? Shouldnt such a regulation go through due legal process first, and in good time? What happens to Citizen journalists? Shouldnt a Ugandan Journalist body or Union be the ones to do this job? Now that the Uganda Journalists Association is defunct, who gatekeeps on journalists behalf? In short, it was a very problematic move. I am glad that the media fraternity have contested this sneak-attack and as of today, I have learnt that, this regulation has been revoked and instead Registered journalists must present identification from their media houses to the Districts of municipalities they cover for approval. How problematic this decision is, is yet to be assessed.

Find related strories across Africa here.

2021Polls-Editors sue media council over accreditation

Committe to Protect Journalists – Police beat, detain journalists covering elections

Google rejects Uganda governments move to block Youtube channels

ACME – Report: Uganda media coverage of election 2021. Focus on October -November 2020 coverage.

Government revokes foreign press pass as elections close in.

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Epistemic glimpses into diasporic digital migrant parents’ universe

This article originally appeared in the NORDMEDIA NETWORK as part of the Media Literacy webinar series on the 5.10.2020. It also appeared in the Newsletter on Media and Learning. My gratitute for allowing me to share our exciting research with the network. More details from this research can be obtained here in English, Norwegian, Dari, Arabic and Tigrinya.

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Lockdown horrors – Act now to stop the violation of young girls

scream

Edvard Munch’s expressionist painting The Scream (1893) trully captures the horrors metted at young people behind closed doors under LOCKDOWN2020. Picture from Wikimedia CommonsThe extent of the damages from the Covid pandemic on all spheres of society is yet to be ascertained and reckoned with. But some horrors already unravelling could have been prevented, if we had learned lessons from previous similar pandemics.

Even though experts had warned about the increased levels of human rights violations under lockdown, especially within households, it was nevertheless horrific to read in the Daily Monitor article that:

‘2,300 school girls conceive, 128 married off during lockdown’.

And these were just reports from 5 of the 134 districts of Uganda. Not only are the numbers mind boggling, given the short timeframes of the Covid-lockdown, it also seems like the lockdown signified and okayed the breakdown of both the legal and social fabric of our society – in this case with regards to the violation of the vulnerable, especially women and children.

From a leadership point of view, it seems like we have learnt nothing from previous pandemics. It is a well documented fact that crises often provide a fertile ground for criminal activity to flourish, including within homes. Experiences from the 2014-16 Ebola health crisis in Western African countries are a good example. During that pandemic, local communities witnessed a drastic rise in the abuse of children and minors – crimes included: defilement, teenage pregnancies and early marriage. In Sierra Leone, for instance, teenage pregnancies are recorded to have doubled to 14,000 from prior to the outbreak. And this information is on our finger tips, just a click away.

Lessons from Ebola, HIV/Aids and other crises in Africa should have prepared us with the understanding that in times like these, women and girls especially from poor or rural communities are most vulnerable. We also know that several of the factors and cultural practices (for instance cultures that encourage child marriages) worsen during emergency situations like the kavuyo we are seeing during Covid. In such situations, families and community structures and infrastructures breakdown considerably while the focus is usually directed at the meta-level on the more existential issues of survival, again leaving criminals unimpeded.

During such times many factors contribute to the rise in such violations. Economic factors are first on the list of contributing factors. As we have learnt, during previous and current pandemics, a majority of families lose their main source of income –  forcing parents to marry off their young daughters (enabling cultural factors) with hopes to reduce mouths to feed and perhaps gain some resources.

Closure of schools due to the lockdown not only leaves the vulnerable young people in danger and in fear of violence, it takes away their escape spaces and access to counselling opportunities. As we know, in our mostly patriarchal societies, the weight of care disproportionately rests on women and girls, not only making them most susceptible to infection, but also makes them easily accessible targets of abuse.

The short term consequences manifest in the dropout from school, child-birth complications (Fistula) and others as mentioned in the Monitor article. Long term consequences may range from lifelong psychological trauma, difficulty in returning to school, a lost generation of female development partners, leaders and decision makers.

It is quite understandable that as the pandemic rages and governments, often strapped for funds and organisational skill, relegate grassroots, marginal communities and groups as well as their issues. But we have to remember that the consequence of such relegation not only promotes a breakdown of social networks and structures that may be difficult to repair, the long term consequences are something we should be concerned about and also act upon urgently.

Continue reading

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CALL FOR BOOK CHAPTERS ON PANDEMICS AND THE MEDIA IN AFRICA

BOOK TITLE: UNDERSTANDING HEALTH CRISES AND THEIR INPRINT ON JOURNALISM AND MEDIA DISCOURSES IN AFRICA

When the COVID-19 broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the close of 2019, no

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Editor: Carol A. Dralega (PhD) is an Associate Professor at the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, NLA University, Norway where she teaches on the Global Journalism Program. Carol holds a PhD from the Media Studies Institute, University of Oslo. Email. carol.dralega@nla.no

oneimagined its rapid global spread and devastating impact – especially on the African media ecology. By the end of June, there were over 10 million confirmed global cases and over 500,000 confirmed deaths in 215 countries (WHO Situation Report July 2020). Declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organisation on 30 January 2020, countries around the world embarked on public health measures to curb the spread. Lock-downs of different proportions and motives have been instituted in most countries and with numerous consequences.

Media and public (health and crisis) communication has been at the core of the fight against COVID-19 underscoring its role in providing quick, accurate and preventive information to combat fear, restore calm and order and save lives by causing adherence to recommended behaviour change in critical times of crisis. But the implication goes far beyond the need for timely information. Reporters without Border (Tracker 19) and UNESCO recently highlighted the new dangers journalists and media face during COVID-19 including: misinformation, draconian bills/legislation, harassment/intimidation, arrests and jail, withheld advertising, murder of journalists, among others.

napakol

Editor: Dr. Angella Napakol (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer and Head of Communication Department at Uganda Christian University. Angella holds a PhD from Center for Communication, Culture and Media Studies, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa. Email. anapakol@ucu.ac.ug

While, Media discourses around health crises may reflect a global scope, such discourses in Africa constitute unique features, struggles, histories and challenges and ultimately strategies specific to the continent and also country specific. This collection of empirical research explores not just the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic but also takes a broad approach to understanding discourses around health and crisis communication on the continent of Africa. The interest is to harness reflected continental media discourses surrounding political, social, economic, technological, religious, gendered and cultural and systemic developments around health crises including but not limited to HIV/AIDS communication, Malaria, Ebola virus pandemic, COVID-19.

Within this context, this book aims to offer novel insights into media discourses around health and crisis communication on the African continent through rigorous and critical empirical and theoretical engagement.  The chapters’ expected focus is on 4 interrelated themes: a) Impact on Journalism Professional Practice, b) Media content/discourse, c) Audience studies and d) Diasporic discourses, pandemic and health communication.

Themes include but are not limited to: Continue reading

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Was she pushed or did she jump? Understanding the leaking pipeline among female journalists

Why is it that journalism classrooms are beaming with female students but as they step out of the classroom and into the newsroom or boardrooms, their numbers begin to drastically dwindle? This dwindle usually correlates with age, longevity in the practice and vertical ascension onto the higher echelons of the profession. Do they leave of their own volition or are they pushed out?

GMMP2020

This picture is from The Global Media Monitoring Project that offers a bounty of status quo and developments around the world. Find out how your country is doing in 2020.

As a former journalist (with a bounty of toxic experiences) and now, a journalism scholar I am ever curious to hear women and men’s understanding of this dillema. Are the mechanisms of disenfranchisement stable especially with the digital turn within the media ecology or are they changing? Are women making large strides towards equality, acceptance and respect or is it the same old story?

That Journalism has been considered a male profession is well documented. The point of departure here is the argument that the profession as well as the societies they serve are richer with an equal representation not only with content matters but also in the employment practices and patterns.

It is understood that journalism plays a crucial role in informing, representing and mirroring soceity. The role of media and journalism as the ‘fourth estate’ is heavily anchored in its mandate as a powerful social change agent, for its watch-dog functionality and being the voice for the voiceless. The argument followsthat, in any society, both women and men contribute to their societal development and by the same token, both should be equally represented in all mechanisms of its operation.  And here-in lies a nuance, women and men are often affected differently by any given discourse – making diveristy of voice both necesary and detrimental.

Thus, for pertinent societal issues to be articulated accurately, there is need for a balanced representation not just on matters of the content but also among the framers and agenda-setters.  For instance, the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) that audits, every 5 years, the gender situation in the media industry, has time and time again proven that stories covered by female journalists are more gender balanced and challenge unequal statusquo as they make sure to include female sources and perspectives as opposed to their male counterparts.

So, back to the leaking pipeline dilema. Both from experience and research: sexism, gender stereotyping, mysogyny, minority status, poor support structures, resistance to change, lack of safety, hegemony of patriarchy, sexual harrassment, hegemonic femininity, symbolic annihilation and the triple roles of women are just a few of the culprits that individually or collectively explain the leaking pipeline.

In other words, when PUSHED into a corner often due to the convergences of the above challenges – with no support structures, no visible or accessible role models or change in sight – many women then choose to JUMP – leaving in their wake, continuities and a vicious circle that is detrimental to the profession and humanity.

Related articles and resources

Breaking the silence – women journalists fight harassment in the worldplace.

The threats follow us home – Survey details risks for female journalists in Canada and US.

Safety kit for female journalists.

 

 

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International Students share experiences from Covid-19 crisis

stduents

In better times before Covid-19. Students share a light moment. Picture by Ani.

Two of my MA exchange students are guest bloggers in this post. (Tiko Georgia) and Ani (Armenia) share their experiences of Covid-19. Tiko’s blog takes us through her tumultuous journey when Covid-19 had just broken out. Hers illustrates among other things, the fear, uncertainty and disruptive nature of crises of global propotions – but ultimately reminding us that at the end of the day, all will be well. We will come out of the darkness.

Covid19 Pandemic: My Unexpected Ticket Home

tiko pix
By Tiko Zurabishvili, Student, MA Global Journalism (Georgia)
Studying in Norway was an adventure from the beginning to the very abrupt end. After spending 2 months in cozy and rainy Kristiansand, I flew to Riga the capital of Latvia known for its architectural marvels, where workshops for budding journalists took place. It was supposed to be a short trip, and I packed rather lightly. Lidya, my dear friend and a groupmate from Ethiopia, accompanied me to the bus stop, from where I would ride to the airport. “I’ll see you in a week,” I told her. None of us had the slightest idea that I wouldn’t be returning to Norway.The week I spent in Latvia was exhilarating: I was in a good company of young colleagues, the weather was sunny, and all bars and restaurants open.However, I was slightly distressed by the current news updating the worldwide cases of Covid19 in a superspeed manner. “It can’t be too serious;peoplejustlove drama. We need to be slightly more careful than usual, that’s all,”I naively said to myself. A day before my departure from Riga,I received an email from my Norwegian coordinator.
The situation was intense, and educational facilities were closing down. NLA University College, where I am enrolled this semester, was urging international students to go back to their home countries if possible. I wasin a dilemma that needed an immediate solution. Instinctively checking my flight online, I found out that Denmark had recently been closed. Guess what? I was supposed to return to Kristiansand through Copenhagen. All in all, I had to switch my tickets to Tbilisi, Georgia the way home.Never before had I been so uncertain about my future. I was flying to a place where I was born and raised, where a loving family and a bunch of loyal friends awaited me. It had to give me some comfort, some sense of security… However, I was overwhelmed. What if I contracted the virus at the airport or on a plane? Would I infect my loved ones? And what about my studies? How will I finish this semester?” the questions in my mind seemed to have no end.Back home, I spent thefirst 2 weeks in selfisolation. People I missed were so close, yet I wasn’t able to see them for their own safety. It felt surreal.
Fortunately, I was able to continue my studies online, which greatly helped me draw my attention away from my anxieties.
Although I didn’t have much expectations regarding distance learning, it turned out to be surprisingly productive.Now,over a month since my return, I’m no longer isolated, but still spend most of my time home. Apart from studying, I take time to improve my writing and video editing skills. In addition, I started painting again something I thought was left in my very early childhood. While still uncertain about what’s next, I feel less nervous. After all, we’re all in this together the whole world. The current reality might not be convenient, but the pandemic cannot last forever. We need to adapt to temporary changes for the sake oftheeventual restoration of our normal, social, affable lives.

Ani

Picture by Ani with her classmates in Kristiansand.

In her blog “Life in Quarantime’,  Ani uses beautiful pictures to contemplate the good and the bad experiences of life under quarantine. Be careful about the dangers of wishful thinking – especially as a student. Her refreshing blog  does more – it is as uplifting as it is a reminder to all of us the importance of friendship, love, patience and the power of quite reflection especially during such crisis (lockdown) times as this one.
Thanks for sharing.
Carol

 

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Reporting while female – What Bedoya’s World Press Freedom (Guillermo) Prize means for plurality of voices in the media

“Pay attention…We are sending a message to the press in Colombia.” The millitants while they raped her.

Jineth

Lima

Ms Lima (center) with Michelle Obama (left) and Hillary Clinton (right) during the International Women of Courage Awards in 2012.

Jineth Bedoya Lima a female Colombian journalist is the 10th female and 24th laureate of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Day Prize for 2020 – and we dont take this lightly. Her resume epitomizes the constant struggle and threat lurking in (especially to female) journalists every-day work life.

You see, Ms Lima (1974) who covers armed conflict and sexual violence against women has first hand experience of this threat. She has been a victim of millitary abduction, torture and rape on two separate occassions while she worked with El Espectador and La Modelo newspapers respectively. The first was on one fateful day in 2000, while covering an arms trafficking case for the El Espectador daily newspaper, she was abducted, tortured and sexually assaulted… and dumped by the trash to be found by a taxi…

In court, this case was dragged along for over a decade and it was not until she appealed at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights that one commandor confessed to being one of her three abductors.

Ms Lima’s prize is timely, uplifting and significant in many ways – surfice to mention just two:

First, the safety of journalists especially female journalists off and online is increasingly worrisome. On a day to day basis, (female) journalists face death threats, sexual harassment, intimidation, jail and rape (the later, as in Ms Lima’s case is often used as a political tool). Many of such cases are not reported due to powerful cultural taboos,  professional stigmas and well as poor economic stature for many journalists.

Secondly, Impunity for Human Rights crimes against journalists due to non-existant or toothless legislation is also cause for worry. The UNESCO report below indicates not only is there a rise in the murder of journalists in the line of duty, 90% of attackers have not been convicted. The Reporters without Borders and UNESCO also warm of the rising threats to journalists during covid-19.

The psychological consequences of the threats to journalists coupled with impunity for perpetuators poses the danger a) for many (female) reporters – often, traumatized and without proper support structures resort to self-censorship and retreat from the public sphere and from their work thus b) effectively silencing their voices and diversity. Silencing journalists endangers plurality of voice, democracy and society.

Lima’s Prize is not just a celebration of journalists’ courage and tenacity. It also is a loud and clear reminder that women are strong, survivors and vital for the profession and for democracy but more importantly, their safety, along with all journalists must be protected especially during these ‘infodemic’ times.

Promote safety of (female) Journalists:

  • Through supportive newsroom practices, cultures and support structures to promote acceptance, support, accurate information (not stereotypes)
  • Provide digital safety to (female) journalists
  • Helpline for (female) journalists caught up in line of duty and post-traumatic events
  • Advocacy – to raise awareness, combat impunity, institution of legislations (with teeth)
  • Research and expose abuse of human rights

Happy World Press Freedom Day (May 3) celebrations.

Sources

Violence against female Journalists

UNESCO survey on violence against female reporters

UNESCO Report on the Intensifiction of murder of Journalists

Also, Where does your country lie on the World Press Freedom Index?

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Celebrating World Press Freedom day 2020 amidst covid-19 and new threats to journalists and the media

Today is World Press Freedom day. The day we celebrate “the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom around the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession”. Exactly one year ago I was at the African Union headquarters in Addis volunteering as a mentor and editor to the global Youth Newsroom that covered the events of the World Press Freedom day. Then, the media coverge lamented the poor state of Press freedom across the world. From arbitrary arrests of journalist, to press censorship, draconian laws, harrassment and intimidations of journalists to the murder of journalists in line of duty. At that time, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were rotting away in prison only to be released after they won the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in Adiss. We disparsed on an optimistic note – with the hope that the situation would improve.

One of many ‘Cartoonist for Peace’ exhibits at the WPF celebrations 2019 in Addis.

2020 however, has turned out to be a year of unprecedented crisis. Covid-19 has caused havoc of such propotions we are yet to properly make sense of. But one area of impact is journalism and journalist work. It is precisely because of the pandemic that today’s F2F WPF day celebrations have been postponed from May 3 to October 18-20 in the Hague. But the pandemic is to blame for unleashing a more sinister wave of human rights abuses against journalists across the globe.

From censorship (USA, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, India) to deliberate disinformation (China), to banning reporters (Tanzania), to arrests and imprisonment (Iran; Azerbaijan, IraqiKurdistan; Jordan; Zimbabwe ) to violence against reporters (Bangladesh, Ukraine); to imposition of new draconian and dubious bills/laws (like in Algeria), to suspension of printing (Liberia). The growing list goes on and on. And this is not to include the ecomonic repurcussions to an already finacially debilitated industry among other areas.

So today, as we celebrate the strides we have made, lets keep up pressure and vigilance to create conducive environements for journalists to report without ‘FEAR OR FAVOUR’ – a slogan highlighting this year’s UNESCO WPF theme.

 

Sources

Reporters without Boarders (Tracker 19)

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Covid-19 and the ‘abrupt’ turn to online teaching and learning

A ZOOM screen-shot during one of the lectures.

The menacing dread and uncertainty surrounding the national enforcement of ‘lockdown’ and social distancing regulation due to Covid-19 is dwindling now. About six weeks ago, the mood was different – gloom, trepidation, concern enveloped our lives as we read and watched the unbelivable rise in Covid-19 casualties – first far away in China, then Italy, Spain and gradually closing in on us. Suddenly, it was no longer danger lurking far, far away. Norway, WE, were on the global danger list.

This reality was driven home when Universities, schools and kindergatens closed (as most institutions) – home not only became the arena for survival (including surviving each other over long time periods in close proximity, hehe!), work, school and child-care tasks shifted and were to be performed at home.

As a University teacher, the virtual turn to online teaching/learning was unsurprising. However, although we engaged in online pedagogies prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, this was only to a lesser extent as F2F pedagogies were still the norm. Quick action in prepping teachers and readying the technical logistics was vital for my case. Lucky for me I had undertaken online teaching courses earlier and am rejuvinating this knowledge through teaching/coordinating it.

So, it then came to pass. With some hiccups, disasters and many triumphs, mostly because of an abundance of patience from my brilliant and enthusiastic students, I have completed one round of online ‘MA Course’ teaching. ZOOM and Canvas has been our friend. I learnt to hold live lectures with various activities and tasks for student engagement – including chat-rooms, breakout rooms, screen shares and synchronous discussions during the lecture. I also learnt to record some lectures for flexibility and asynchronous consumption (but oh, how I loothe the sound of my voice!). Generating and moderating debate/discussion which were given sufficient time as well as quizzes and reflections were also a favourite for many of my students. All this, in a planned paced learning trajectory anchored in and towards the course’s learning outcomes.

With online pedagogies students take an even more central role in their own learning. Social constructivist approaches sustained by a combination of self-learning, experiential learning, peer-reviews, collaborative pedagogies and progressive self-reflection do actually foster active and life-long learning. But while desirable, online pedagogies do take time to construct, implement and sustain. Covid-19 is definately disruptive in the sense that our new normal – in a post-covid world – will include a further shift towards elearning/eteaching pedagogies. The time is rife for institutions of higher learning to put in order the multi-dimensional building blocks for implementing successfull virtual learning (and the role of technologies, multi-stakeholder dialog and research cannot be under-rated).

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