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A National Conversation - Bridging the gap between leaders and citizens
Africa
The project A National Conversation is funded by DFID’s groundbreaking Governance and Transparency Fund. It is designed to promote accountability, transparency and public participation through public service broadcasting in three very different countries in Africa – Angola, Sierra Leone and Tanzania.
Start date: 2009
End date: 2014
Media Type: Journalism training, Radio
Issue: Governance
Countries: Angola, Sierra Leone, Tanzania
“…the media is the only way that people can know really what governments are doing.”
“We can show both anecdotal evidence and statistical evidence that what matters is not just the formal structures like elections; elections on their own have very little effect on government performance unless they are coupled with all the things that make elections effective of which a free and high quality media is absolutely critical.”
Paul Collier, Author, The Bottom Billion
GMFD Conference Athens 2008
Angola’s media is state owned and run, so criticism of the government is rarely heard. Sierra Leone enjoys greater media freedom and diversity of ownership, but journalists can often be partisan, exercise self-censorship and lack access to reliable sources of information. Good governance is high on the agenda in Tanzania, and media independence enshrined in law. The 2010 Election will provide the first real test of the media’s ability to deliver balanced and impartial coverage.
In all three cases, citizens are not receiving the information they need to make informed decisions. In addition, the media does not hold the government to account on their behalf, neither does it offer them a platform to air their views or debate the key issues of the day.
The issues are reported to raise attention to relevant authorities with a view that solutions will be provided.
Katendi Wandi, Trainer BBC WST Angola
Within these three differing contexts we are working with local partners to create A National Conversation, bridging the gap between leaders and citizens. This is a learning project through which we articulate best practice around how the media can and should be harnessed to enhance governance, and from which a model can be developed and replicated for other countries.
100 Duvidas
The contrasting political backdrops mean we are working in different ways with each partner. In Angola we are running investigative journalism courses, training and mentoring journalists and helping to shape editorial content at Radio Ecclesia; the only independent radio in the country broadcasting from Luanda. The flagship programme ‘100 Duvidas’ (100 Doubts) provides a platform for the audience to phone in to discuss issues relevant to their lives; debates on sanitation, electricity, pollution, garbage collection or dysfunctional hospitals. The focus is on problem-solving, the intention being that publicity and a platform will eventually lead to the resolution of particular issues.
In early 2010, the production team at Radio Ecclesia covered a story related to a situation which deeply concerned the residents of Ilha da Madeira, a neighbourhood in Hoji-Ya-Henda which had not had light or electricity for 30 years. After a report on the 100 Dúvidas programme the problem was solved and the authorities installed electricity, to the delight of local residents.
Fo Rod
In Sierra Leone, A National Conversation addresses governance issues through a network of rural local community radio stations. Each station produces a version of the show ‘Fo Rod’ (At the Crossroads), linking local issues to national priorities. Two trained local mentors are spending six months at a time at these stations to train, mentor and support local journalists on covering governance issues.
In March this year, Fo Rod focused on sexual crimes in the southern Pujehun district of Sierra Leone. The show produced by Radio Wanjei, the local community station, interviewed the police, conducted vox pops with local residents and even interviewed the mother of a victim, all in the quest to identify why these crimes go unreported and what contributes to the culture of silence. That night the station was flooded with phone calls, in the most overwhelming response the station has ever received for one of its programmes.
Editorial values
The Tanzanian Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) is our partner in Tanzania. We are supporting TBC’s transformation from state-owned to public service broadcaster, helping to develop a set of editorial values, a network of local reporters who can ensure that stories from rural areas reach the national agenda, deliver improved news and current affairs programming and increased focus on the importance of their audiences.
Related links
Angolan neighbourhood gets electricity after 30 years
Radio programme breaks down barriers
More than football: the East Africa Cup
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