Journalists, scientists, whistle blowers and governments: Who are the truth-tellers now?
It’s a common trope of the disaster film to start with a government ignoring the scientists, just before the meteor, the volcano, the earthquake or the pandemic strikes. What the scientists have to say is often not what the government wants to hear. This is why it is often so important for journalists to amplify the voices of scientists. What happens when governments implement new laws that make any reporting on the Covid-19 virus except messages that come directly from government itself illegal?
Internews has just released a report that shows how journalists have been muzzled all over Southern Africa, and how these new laws have particularly affected any investigative journalism into conditions at hospitals and infection numbers.
It appears that similar laws are being implemented all over the African continent. Restrictions around the spreading of fake news on the pandemic may be important to limit conspiracy theories, but they also have a chilling effect on journalism. And what responsibility do journalists have to work with scientists to understand the science to actively debunk conspiracy theories?
In this, our second ‘free’ webinar brought to you by Highway Africa (HA) and Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies in the past two months, we bring you voices from across North, West and Southern Africa.
These are journalists and researchers who will paint a picture of what it is like reporting on the pandemic, but also considering ideas (what sort of ideas? Developmental? I think you need to be more specific here) for the post-Covid era, and how journalists should relate to scientists on the continent in the longer term.
HA, set up by Rhodes University 24 years ago, is Africa’s biggest and oldest conference series for journalists and media workers from across the continent. Over the years, it has brought together thousands of media people to chart the future of Africa’s media and journalism and has been a key networking platform for them.
These webinar series are a prelude to the HA annual conference that is scheduled to be held next year. The conference could not be staged this year because of Covid-19 travel restrictions by all governments across the world.
Laeed ZaghlamiPROFESSOR, ALGIERS UNIVERSITY
Laeed Zaghlami holds a PhD from Algiers University, an MPhil from the University of Surrey, UK and a diploma from the International Academy of Broadcasting in Montreux, Switzerland. He is a professor in the Faculty of Information and Communication at Algiers University and an associate professor in Faculty of Politics and International Relations.
Zaghlami is a former manager of Algerian Broadcasting and a former correspondent for the Daily Nation in Kenya, www.africareview.com, and www.universityworldnews.com. He is also a freelancer and an analyst for Algerian Broadcasting and an editorial board member of the series Anthem Studies in Soft Power and Diplomacy. He has written numerous articles, book chapters and books.
Mandi Smallhorne-KraftPRESIDENT, SOUTH AFRICAN SCIENCE JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION
Mandi Smallhorne-Kraft is a freelance journalist and magazine editor. A health journalist since 1993, she has edited the official magazine of the South African Society of Physiotherapy for two decades. She has also edited consumer magazines covering health and lifestyle. She has been commissioned by media outlets such as the Mail & Guardian, City Press and other print and online media to write articles on a range of social justice and environmental issues, as well as science- and health-related topics. She has a particular interest in the interlocking issues of climate change, food security agriculture and health.
As president of the South African Science Journalists Association and vice president of the Board of the World Federation of Science Journalists, she is passionate about telling science stories well, and training other journalists to dig into science to enrich their writing.
Mia MalanEDITOR IN CHIEF, BHEKISISA CENTRE FOR HEALTH JOURNALISM
Mia Malan is the founding editor-in-chief of the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, a pioneering, donor-funded media start-up in South Africa. Bhekisisa has pioneered solutions journalism in the country and its reporting has influenced social justice policies. Malan has 25 years of journalism, fundraising and institution-building experience in legacy media and digital native publications, working in newsrooms and at media development organisations in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Washington, DC.
She’s grown Bhekisisa from a specialist desk at a legacy outlet to an independent non-profit over the past seven years. A respected long-form writer and broadcaster, Malan has worked with journalists, media trainers and news executives from South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana, Uganda, Ethiopia, India, Thailand, Iran and the Czech Republic.
Malan is a former Knight International Journalism fellow of the International Centre for Journalists and a Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism fellow at Oxford University. Malan has won 26 local and international awards for her radio, print and television work