First-Ever Mobile Journalism Mentorship Program Launched for 100 Malaysian Citizen Journalists

The program will train mostly youth and women to use multimedia on mobile devices to engage with their communities about local issues

To amplify stories from local communities whose voices are not typically heard in the media, a Citizen Media Mentorship program using Mobile Journalism (MOJO) was launched on June 29. ‘MOJO Kita! Let Every Voice Be Heard,’ an initiative by Internews in Malaysia together with NGOHub and SOLS 24/7, and in partnership with the European Union, is the first program of its kind in Malaysia. It will involve ten mentors and 100 mentees from across the country.

The MOJO Citizen Media Mentorship Program will run for 10 months and will focus on youth and women. These individuals act as independent local voices who can directly engage with audiences through digital devices and channels using innovative multimedia formats. They will produce stories and highlight issues that are important to them and ultimately, facilitate ongoing dialogue between local communities and authorities.

“Mobile journalism is a ground-breaking way of doing journalism which provides local communities, especially those in hard-to-reach areas with real-time information on issues affecting their lives. We hope that this MOJO program is able to raise community concerns for good governance, accountability and transparency and improve information ecosystems,” says Camelia-Narcis Tudose, Political Officer of the Delegation of the European Union in Malaysia, at the launch.

In Malaysia, where state authorities and government-friendly private entities exert control over news production, there is demand for greater journalistic pluralism and citizen reporting. To respond to this evolving landscape, the MOJO Citizen Media Mentorship program developed four training modules which emphasise core journalism principles such as how to produce high-quality, fact-based, and objective stories. The modules also cover how mentees can play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information armed only with their phones.

The trainings were carried out by ten mentors who are experienced journalists and media practitioners in Malaysia from TV3, MalaysiaKini, TV Al-Hijrah, NTV7 and BERNAMA Radio, among others. The first onboarding for the mentors and mentees was held in April 2021 and the mentees will start producing content based on community issues that they would like to champion over a period of 10 months (starting in July). At the end of the program, 1000 stories will be produced with plans to organise forums as well as townhall meetings with local authorities based on the community-driven content produced by these citizen journalists.

The virtual launch was attended by 82 people from Civil Society Organisations, Universities and Embassies, with the landing page for the MOJO program also unveiled at the event.

Speaking at the launch, guest speaker, Yang Berhormat Senator Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi who is a Persons with Disabilities advocate and Chairman of the Malaysian News Agency (BERNAMA) emphasised the use of MOJO as a tool for meaning-making and how citizen journalists should effectively navigate this new media landscape.

“Most importantly we should write from the heart, and we need to be storytellers. We cannot copy and paste what others do or say. We need to open our eyes, ears and hearts and report the truth, as best as we can,” advises Radzi.

Another guest speaker, Peter Kallang, Chairman and Founding Member of SAVE Rivers, an organisation that led the fight against the proposed Baram mega hydrodam project explained how Citizen Media and MOJO can be used to champion for community and environmental issues.

“Projects involving infrastructure or extractive industries that have social and environmental impacts affect those on ground zero, and often these are Indigenous and Local Communities. Sadly, these project locations are remote. Their predicaments and complaints are either totally unheard or trivialised by the majority of established media. This is where citizen media can play a very important role,” he says.

The MOJO Citizen Media Mentorship Program is an activity under the Suara Masyarakat (Community Voices) project which a 3-year action funded by the European Union and implemented by Internews in Malaysia together with local partners.