By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
As the world waits in anticipation to see the end of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, media organizations in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, have received financial support to boost the capacity of journalists and contents on accurate reportage and information about the pandemic.
This was made known to Vanguard by the Director, Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa, BMIA, Erana Stennett, while explaining that citizens’ need to have access to reliable news, for their marginalized voices to be heard, and also to give hope to them.
According to Stennett reliable news in this critical time, the socio-economic lives of nations across the world are being ravaged and devastated, which prompted the initiative to give citizens accurate news in the wake and wave of fake news blowing across the continent.
In Nigeria, the BMIA-CMF has awarded the Institute for Media and Society a grant. The Conversation Africa in South Africa and the Kenya Community Media Network received emergency funding to support the creation of evidence-based content, including fact-checking around the impact of the pandemic in Kenya and South Africa. The five BMIA-CMF grantees will also use a portion of their grants to create a COVID-19 public service campaign.
The support is to improve training and support the production of independent, reliable news content on issues impacting local communities. Additional COVID-19 emergency response grants have also been awarded to two organizations in Kenya and South Africa to directly address misinformation around the coronavirus pandemic.
Independent, local journalism has a critical role to play in providing accurate information about preventing and managing COVID-19 in communities. Local media, particularly radio, played a similar role during the recent Ebola epidemics in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, helping to counter disinformation and overcoming stigma associated with the disease.
He said: “The BMIA Community Media Fund was created to improve citizens’ access to reliable news, to elevate marginalized voices, and to advance reporting on socio-economic issues that impact regional communities across Africa.
“As we confront economic insecurity in the midst of this pandemic, access to reliable local news and information has never been more important, or more under threat due to false and misleading information.
“We hope that our support will help secure the viability of vital community media organizations to protect the communities they serve.
“Nigeria- The Institute for Media and Society; The Institute for Media and Society project focuses on promoting better governance, transparency, and accountability in natural resources management at the grassroots level in six local government areas in five states in Nigeria, through training, reporting, production, and dissemination of content. The project will be implemented in collaboration with Nigeria Community Radio Coalition and five community radio stations.
“Kenya- The Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK); The Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) is a national association for women journalists committed to enhancing the status of women in Kenya and Africa. AMWIK’s project seeks to build upon their previous grant to strengthen the capacity of citizens and community media journalists to produce and distribute radio documentaries covering local development in Kenyan counties.
“Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT); Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT) is a community trust focused on rights, resources, and environmental advocacy, working to foster social, economic, and ecological justice in Turkana. Through their grant, FoLT will train young women in four sub-counties of Turkana, focusing on citizen journalism. The training will enable young women to produce and facilitate interactive radio programs on three radio stations and take part in radio listening clubs.
“Mtaani Community Based Organization; Mtaani Community Based Organization is a non-profit organization supported by volunteers. Mtaani will use its two radio community radio stations (Radio Domus FM and Mtaani Radio) to promote transparency and accountability by providing relevant information to communities to improve public participation and understanding of the county development planning process. Mtaani CBO will build upon an earlier BMIA-CMF grant and produce radio programs and facilitate public forums to enable the community to participate and provide feedback on development in Kajiado and Nairobi counties.
“South Africa- Bush Radio; Bush Radio is a pioneering community radio station in South Africa, renowned for its active role in fighting the apartheid regime and promoting democracy. Through the grant, Bush Radio will train reporters from the ten largest community radio stations in the Western Cape Province on financial reporting and local government budgetary processes. Bush Radio will also support the production of programs including news bulletins, reports, and analysis.
Meanwhile, according to him recipients of the BMIA-CMF COVID-19 Emergency Response grants include Kenya; Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET). Kenya Community Media Network specializes in the development of community media, focusing on community radio, resource centers, and newsletters. Through their grant, KCOMNET proposes to work with community radio stations to broadcast content on local issues around COVID-19. In addition, they will set up fact-checking desks in six radio stations.
In South Africa, the Conversation Africa; The Conversation Africa is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered directly to the public. The Conversation Africa project will focus on disseminating evidence-based content to communities across South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria through WhatsApp in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He (Stennett) said the BMIA Community Media Fund was established in 2015. He added that the Fund’s grants, awarded over two years, aim to elevate voices from local communities and further the development of citizen journalism and community reporting on financial and economic issues. To date, 12 community media organizations in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa have received grants through the Fund.
Meanwhile, the Regional Director, Office for West Africa, Ford Foundation, Innocent Chukwuma, expressed optimism that support from the BMIA Community Media Fund will provide a much-needed reprieve to some of these media outlets.
“Community media systems are essential to our democracy as they provide a voice to voiceless communities and present life-saving information to their audience. Yet the COVID-19 global pandemic is threatening the continued existence of these stations. This support from the BMIA Community Media Fund will provide a much-needed reprieve to some of these media outlets and help them continue doing their amazing work and impacting lives in the communities in which they operate”, Chukwuma stated.
Bloomberg Africa Media Initiative, BMIA, was launched by Mike Bloomberg, in South Africa in 2014. The BMIA is a pan-Africa programme designed to accelerate the development of a globally competitive media and financial reporting industry as well as promote transparency, accountability, and good governance in Africa and beyond.
The initiative has four components: it provides cross-disciplinary educational programs to increase the number of highly trained business and financial journalists, as well as supports research to stimulate new media innovations, convene international leaders to promote interactive dialogue, and build strong relationships to enhance the quality of financial coverage and the availability of reliable and timely data on the continent.
While Bloomberg Philanthropies works in 480 cities in more than 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health.
Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $767 million.
The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For over 75 years it has worked with courageous people on the front lines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the Foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.