Discussing Internews work supporting local journalists around the world, Marjorie Rouse, Internews Senior VP of Programs; Henri Paul, Internews Chief of Party for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); and Erica Feldkamp, Internews VP of Administration were interviewed by Mad River Union Editor Kevin Hoover on KHSU Radio’s Thursday Night Talk program.
Listen to the program:
Speaking about Internews' program in DRC supporting community radio, Henri Paul said, "Those who work in those radios, they are not professional journalists. They are teachers, local nurses, farmers and veterinarians. So they don't have any skill to begin with. What we do is to double up their skills to become journalists, reporters, editors-in-chief, program directors, technicians and even managers of their own community radios."
Paul also noted that Internews works to support women journalists in DRC. "We have a partner community radio in DRC that belongs to women only. They put it together to broadcast the issues of concern for them in a remote place – the southern Kivu Province inside of the DRC – which is experiencing a lot of sexual-based violence," he said. "So the women who are there came together to build their own radio and then do their radio work to raise community awareness on their plight about sexual-based violence."
Full Transcript of the radio interview:
KHSU – Thursday Night Talk on KHSU
Kevin Hoover: What is Internews, what is its mission and what does it do?
Marjorie Rouse: Internews is an international nonprofit dedicating to empowering local media and growing, what we like to call healthy information ecologies around the world and that's how information flows in a community. And over the past thirty plus years we've worked with local media. We consider ourselves, what we call, platform neutral. We work with media that reaches the people who need information the most. So, that goes from online to mobile, television, radio, citizen and professional journalism and journalists rather. And we've done this in more than ninety countries, ranging from Chad to Burma to Ukraine. The programs are as diverse as the countries in which we work, but they're all rooted in a belief that if people have access to quality, locally produced, locally relevant information, they're able to improve their lives and enrich their communities.
KH: So you're working on the premise that information is power and if people, regular everyday people, have it they're more empowered to make informed decisions?
MR: Absolutely. Kind of like the mission of public radio as well. And that if people have information but also I think an important part of the equation for us is that people have voice. So the ability of people to receive information through media but also to participate in media – in the creation of media and media through call-in shows and talk shows like this one – for it to be a platform for conversation, as well, as opposed to a one way source of information. And I think that equation shifted certainly here at home and globally quite a while ago with social media, with media becoming more of a conversational dialogue within a community.
KH: Now how does Internews select the areas that need focus, that need assistance in developing their media?
KR: We look at a triangulation of three things. The first is: where there need? And the second is: do we have something to offer that particular community that isn't already there or that they have locally or someone else is doing? And then the third is: can we find a funding source willing to support that type of work? We are a donor-funded organization and so unfortunately do not have the ability to do everything we would like to do, but when we can triangulate those three things, that's where we will pick to work.
KH: I imagine that there are times when you can't meet all of those three criteria – where there might be a crying need, but perhaps local conditions aren't…you can't get in there or you don't have the resources for it.
MR: It does happen. It's frustrating when the resources are the piece you can't put together. If we find a need, but there's somebody there that can meet it, that's fantastic. The mission is still being met. But where we work hard to try to triangulate that – especially the more acute the need is –the more we will make effort to find ways to meet it.
KH: Maybe this isn't true, but it's my assumption that of places that need some sort of media infrastructure, information dissemination are exactly in some cases possibly the sorts of places that don't want that sort of thing. Is that the case?
MR: Yes, it is. Sometimes we work in places where freedom of expression and freedom of press may not be as highly valued as others. We also work in places where there's gaps in the infrastructure, in places like Afghanistan where we've helped build radio stations, places where we've done sort of the brick-and-mortar work of building community radios so that there is at least one radio station in each province of Afghanistan. We've done this in places like South Sudan and Chad.
So it's not only an unwelcoming environment, but sometimes it's an environment where there is just a gap in infrastructure as well and in talent, so you're working with universities so that there are places that can prepare the next generation of journalists. Or physically building stations or working in places where the legal and regulatory environment needs help if they're drafting new laws. Then they need examples of best practices from other countries in the region, or from other places in the world. But really, it really is a mix of places.
KH: In terms of the mix as well, I take it you're able to train journalists in how to comport themselves ethically and do basic news gathering and dissemination, but do you also work on the physical facilities as well, like building the radio station, putting the printing press in? That sort of thing?
MR: We'll do that where there's a real gap and there aren't local resources. I was referring to places like Chad or South Sudan or Afghanistan. In most places, though, there is already existing media or even in some cases, civic groups that had are looking to communicate with their constituencies and we'll work with them. We do do the bricks and mortar work sometimes. If it's existing outlets, it may be helping them with financial viability or looking at their funding model and their sustainability, which is, to be honest, is something everybody's looking at in this country as well. And it's a learning process that we in media are all doing together, in developed and developing countries. And sometimes the developing countries, the media partners we work with are much more innovative and bigger risk takers on this because they haven't had a long history of good support. They've always had to be scrappy and figure out ways to survive.
KH: It's my impression that Americans are not always extremely well received just by virtue of being Americans in certain places and then, of course, that big torture report that came out today. When something like that comes out, is this something that you have to factor in when you're in some these remote places, the kind of impression that people will have, correct or otherwise about Americans?
MR: One thing that we that do make an effort to do, and it's because it aligns with our mission, and that is to be as local as possible in terms of who we work with and who we are. So many of the places where we work actually there aren't any American staff members. We have people like Henri Paul, who is an African leading our effort in the DRC, and that is the situation in many countries. And we do work as locally as possible once we get into a country so we'll tend many times to work with the community radio station as opposed to a big national broadcaster. So we're very much a part of the community. That said, where you do have a larger international footprint, things like a report coming out that can trigger violence – there are always US Embassy and State Department puts out warnings and we track those very carefully and pay attention to them, just as do about any Americans or other nationals living abroad and working abroad.
KH: I just wanted to remind listeners you're listening to Thursday Night Talk. We're talking about Internews tonight, a global organization dedicated to cultivating independent media throughout the world. And we're on the line with senior vice president of programs, Marjorie Rouse. We'll get to our other guests in the studio momentarily. I just have a few more questions for Marjorie and, of course, we always want your phone calls. 707-826-4805.
Marjorie, is there any type of media that you find most efficient for cultivating or is it mostly radio or do you adapt to whatever the local situation is or what they're used to? Do you do print? I know you do radio. What forms of media do you try to assist?
MR: Everything you just named, to be honest. It really is a mix and we'll look at what is going to reach the people who need it the most. That said, there are very few places that we work with where the media isn't convergent. And by that I mean there's a radio station, but they have a website and they're also aggregating SMS or they're doing outreach through SMS text messaging. Or it's a TV station that also has a radio broadcast, and at a major online presence. So it's very rare these days, even with a newspaper, that you're working with just one way to communicate with your community. Mobile phones are huge, huge and offer huge opportunities to reach so many people in developing contexts that couldn't be reached before.
Literacy is still a big obstacle, so you can only go so far with SMS, with text messaging and using mobile phones in many communities where literacy is going to limit. The same for Internet – there are still huge parts of the world where accessibility and access to the Internet is very limited. So radio is still king, and in many places in the world. That said, there are places where, in places like India, where the print market is actually growing. Eastern Europe, Central Europe, parts of Asia, television still dominates. But increasingly we see the Internet and mobile phones catching up as a new source or people who haven't been across multiple platforms will be getting certain types of information to their phone. Other types of information on radio. Word of mouth in communities is still an important factor to keep in mind. So it really does run the gamet and vary quite widely from place to place.
KH: That's interesting to me that there are places where the electronic media and the new media is more pervasive than the old media, which is what I do – print – that's interesting. And, of course, that shows my bias, my first world cultures that I hadn't even really thought about – that literacy would be a big obstacle, that you need to communicate in ways other than the printed word.
MR: It really is. I think as literacy efforts continue – this has been in terms of international development, literacy has always been a priority, up there with other health challenges, that is being slowly chipped away at, but it still remains a barrier for many large groups of people. Especially what we find is the most marginalized and the most at risk and the most vulnerable are often the ones where that barrier is the greatest. So if you want to reach women in certain communities, if you want to reach ethnic minorities, people who may not have full access to the education system, you really you go back to looking at radio in many places.
KH: Well, let's talk to Henri Paul. He is here in the studio. Henri, you work in the Democratic Republic of Congo now. You're originally from Cameroon. You've had extensive experience in places like Rwanda and Burundi working with media. So to start, how do people get information in what we're calling DRC, the Democratic Republic of Congo? What's the main way they take in their info?
HP: First of all, thank you Kevin. It's mainly through the radio because the radio is a more accessible tool.
KH: Is that AM radio?
HP: It's FM – FM everywhere.
KH: Do people have individual radios?
HP: Yes, they do.
KH: Pocket transistor radios? If I go to a restaurant or something, they're playing a radio?
HP: Yes, you'll find in restaurant because, not only that, the problem of literacy was raised but also the problem of provision of electricity. Even if you have a TV set, you're not able to listen to it all the time because the electricity provision is really unreliable. And then, also, infrastructure in the country. There are not so many roads to go from one site to another. It's a huge country, DRC, a very huge country. So to go from one province to another you have to use, for instance, a plane. There are not so many good roads. So mainly, it's radio. People access information through radio.
KH: What type of radio programming do they have? Do they have journalism or is it mostly entertainment?
HP: No, they have that – that's what we do, that's what Internews does there. For the program that I manage, we train them, we double up their capacity in professional skills for our news, for our broadcast productions and for entertainment and for community issues, things that matter for them like education, health, rural development, agriculture, farming, fishing and so on and so forth.
KH: Was there much in the way of journalism, media there before you started your efforts?
HP: Oh yes, yes, although it's a developing country, it has some tradition now of broadcast media, and it's one of the countries in Africa with…how can I put it?...the most radios in Africa. The community radios – there are four hundred of them in the whole country and we work with fifty of them in four provinces.
KH: So you create programming?
HP: We don't create programs. We just build their capacities for professional skills, managerial skills, editorial skills and so on And the radios are completely independent – we just support them to do better, the best way possible what they have been doing. Because those are small community radios in small communities, very poor communities. Those who work in those radios, they are not professional journalists. They are teachers, local teachers. They are local nurses, farmers and so on and so forth. Veterinarians. So they don't have any skill to begin with. So what we do is to double up their skills to become journalists, reporters, editors-in-chief, program directors, technicians and even managers of their own community radios.
KH: That was my question is so do they have news shows, do they have public affairs shows? You mentioned, for example, veterinarians. Do they have shows about how to maintain your animals?
HP: Yes, livestock and livestock breeding. The first training we do is with the editors-in-chief, the way it has to be broadcast professionally. That's the first thing we do with them. And then we go into programming and then we train the technicians for technical issues and maintenance and for good transmission of broadcast programs.
KH: Do you find a talent pool there of people who are eager to do this sort of work?
HP: Yes, they are either fully trained before or with us, or even from the ground. Internews, through the program that I manage, this year launched a program of volunteers – local women, just illiterate women in their communities without any skill, without any knowledge of the radio previously. After four months, some of those women have become good professional journalists, after just four months. So this shows that the talent was there but it was dormant, it was not exploited. So through the support that Internews gave them, they have become very useful in their communities broadcasting programs that are the highest interest for their communities, their own communities.
KH: Are there any problems for women in the DRC? Are there any strictures about their behavior? Are they allowed to go ahead and assert themselves and have a professional life?
HP: Generally speaking, we can say yes, but it depends on the areas. DRC is a country of, I think, 200 tribes, so each tribe has its own culture, but generally speaking women do not have access to their own professional career and so on. But it's opening, it's opening up. For instance, DRC has 3,500 media professionals and of those, only twenty five percent are women, although women are the majority in journalism schools, journalism schools and faculties and so on. Women are the majority but in the media outlets, only about 28% now are women.
KH: What sorts of programs specifically do they need over there? What have they not had? Have they not had straight news? Have they not had health information? What's proven popular over there? Hopefully, it's not things like TMZ and gossip and celebrities.
HP: Sometimes yes because DRC has many artists, singers, so those types of programs are very popular. But the main thing is the news, people want the news, they need the news. When the radios are not broadcasting for one reason or another, for instance, a breakdown of a transmitter, they will come to the radio [station] to ask people what's going on, why don't we have our news?
KH: So, they're quite hungry for information?
KH: Ok, let's talk to Erica Feldkamp. She's Vice President of Administration in Arcata. What is the Arcata Internews office? What is its role in the organization?
Erica Feldkamp: The Arcata office is really where Internews was founded over thirty years ago. So the organization's kind of grown up here. It was founded by David Hoffman, who still lives locally. But over the last fifteen years or so, we've kind of shifted our headquarters to be in Washington DC, in the sense that that's our programmatic headquarters. It's where all the folks like Marjorie and her teams work that really implement and support the direct implementation of our programs. So in Arcata we remain the business administration headquarters so we have our human resources and finance, accounting, our grants and contracts administration and some of our communications and IT are still based out of Arcata. And so that will remain our strategy for quite a long time to come and we have a great basis staff here and that's our core role.
KH: Yeah, the former PC Saachi – I have some pictures of that place when it was…in the fifties when there were big old bulgy cars back in there. I'll bring those over to you. How did you get a job at Internews? Are you from Arcata?
EF: I'm not from Arcata. I'm originally from Kentucky. I've lived in Arcata for about fifteen years and I went Humboldt State. I went through the geographic information systems program. And actually that's kind of what got me into Internews. I took a job in some database management for Internews over ten years ago and I they let me use my GIS work to make some maps for them as well. So it was fun.
KH: Weren't you guys in the Fireworker building before?
EF: Not at that time. We've been in our current location on 7th Street for about 11 years.
KH: You changed the logo too at some point.
EF: That happened about two or three years ago.
KH: What kind of people work at Internews? What sort of skills do they have? How do you find and recruit them?
EF: For the Arcata staff we get a lot of great talent here out of HSU. I think just in the last three years, we've probably hired over thirty people who are graduates at some point, either recently or from long time ago from HSU. Of course, we look for folks through the traditional means of putting ads in the paper, on our website and using recruitment tools like idealist .org and has those kinds of things. We also have a really interesting phenomenon where people have experience in Arcata, it's a great place, they go to school here, maybe they move away to get a job on doing something else and they always kind of have that longing to come back to Arcata. And Internews has been one of the organizations that provides that opportunity for people to come back. The go out in the world and get different experience, even international experience. We have people who have left and gone to the Peace Corps or have taken jobs working in roles assisting in these types of programs that Internews even does. And they want to come back to Arcata, so I'm it's been really fun to see that. We have a lot of people who we bring in from all over the country who are trying to get back to Arcata. And they bring this great experience back with them.
KH: You're a global organization, of course, committed to communication essentially. Is it difficult to work out of Arcata? We're way out in a remote area of the country behind the Redwood curtain but does distance matter at all these days?
EF: It's time zones that matter. Yeah, that's the challenge, so we work very closely with our teams in Arcata, Marjorie and all the folks who work for her. We also work directly every day with folks like Henri Paul and his teams in every single country that we have programs in. And that's over thirty countries right now and so that's a lot of time zones and so our Arcata staff are up sometimes very early in the morning, literally sometimes four o'clock in the morning to get online and support those programs. And we're very late at night, just depending on which time zone you need to work with. But they're very passionate about it, they enjoy it. It's a great job – this sense of feeling part of the bigger world and connected to all these fabulous programs.
KH: 826-4805 We're with folks from Internews tonight. We're talking about cultivating media in the rest of the world. But what about the US – does Internews do anything domestically and I'm throwing that out to anyone?
MR: Sure. It hasn't been a major focus to date and I think the primary reason for that is, there are a lot of groups similar to ours that have a US focus, and they only focus on the United States. So it goes back to triangulating the need and the resources and what value we have to add. But we have done a project in the very recent past down in New Orleans and one of the things that we focus on are humanitarian crises and that can be everything from your post tsunami in Aceh and Indonesia to the work we're doing right now in Guinea and Liberia on Ebola or working with displaced people in camps in places like Sudan and other places where we work. And we actually saw in New Orleans that there were some significantly underserved communities, especially post-Katrina, that actually weren't necessarily getting their voice out in their community. And it was a bit of an experiment for us, but we worked with a public broadcaster down there and put up what we call "listening posts" in a couple key places and in some parts of New Orleans that are pretty underserved and pretty poor. And they were places, we used old New Orleans style lampposts turned into microphones. It was a place where people could go up – I think one was outside a barbershop, one was on a library front porch – and speak their voice and put questions out and the local radio station was bringing those in and looking at them and answering questions. So that's sort of one foray we've done into the US market, but in general, we haven't.
KH: You mentioned Ebola. I'm curious about the role of media in incidents like that, whether it's a sudden disease springing up or a natural disaster, that sort of thing. Does Internews play a role in those sorts of situations?
MR: We do and much of this dates back almost exactly ten years ago to when the tsunami hit Indonesia. Indonesia was a place where we had been working since the late 1990s when the environment there opened up and there was a blossoming of media in a real need to give them support to stand up and get on their feet. And we'd since transitioned out of there and the media partners were going strong. But we had worked really closely with all of those radio stations that ran up the Acehnese Coast that were almost all completely devastated. And we still had friends and colleagues.
So we went back in and brought in what we call suitcase radio stations in sort of a down and dirty way to get up a mast and an antenna, and get on the air and broadcasting. And what we realized was there was a huge disconnect between the humanitarian community that came in with really important food, shelter, water, medical supplies and the community they were working with. They literally didn't speak the same language and they figuratively also didn't speak the same language.
So we found ourselves playing the role of an intermediary, that we now call a humanitarian information liaison, where we can go back and forth between the local media we know and the humanitarian organizations which we've also gotten to know – their culture and how they work and what they need. And help them go beyond just public service announcements and messaging and telling people where to find what and when, but to be able to listen to that community and get an idea of what the community needs and where and when, and bridge those two conversations and help with the dialogue.
And we're doing something very similar right now in Africa on Ebola. There are lots of messages. In Liberia right now there are an incredible number of messages that are being pushed out in a real effort to put everything people can behind slowing down the rate of new infections and stemming the crisis there. But not necessarily done in a way that listens to the community and gets an idea of what the community needs and also why the community might be struggling with some of the health messages that that don't necessarily fit culturally.
Now as hopefully we're moving closer to a recovery phase…we're not there yet but we're moving closer…you're looking right now at issues of stigma. You have orphans who are not being accepted back into communities. You have families who may be stigmatized. You have lack of understanding or faith when someone is declared a Ebola free. So as these countries move out of the immediate health crisis and into a recovery period, there's going to be a lot of work that we feel strongly local media can do in a way that international organizations pushing out messages can't do on their own. Not to say that those messages are bad or that those messages aren't needed, they're tremendously needed, but if the community media can bridge that and help create a dialogue so they're as effective as possible, we see that as a really critical role and it's one of those added values we can bring in a humanitarian crisis be it man-made or natural.
KH: I've heard about some of the terrible superstitions and misapprehensions that they have about Ebola over there and I guess we have them here too to some extent. It seems to me that's an incredibly valuable opportunity to go ahead and dispel a lot of that with some straightforward health information. I just wonder how well it's received or if there's pushback. People want to cling to their superstitions.
MR: Well, again, we're working with existing local radio stations. We were actually working in Guinea before Ebola struck. We were there doing other work. There's other humanitarian crises in that part of Africa and we were working with local radio stations. And as it turned out those stations, several of them were in some of the hottest areas in Guinea when the Ebola outbreak happened. So we were very quickly able to pivot and start working with them. But it's not our team that's on the front line talking to the communities. It's our team working with trusted voices that are already in place.
So we're working with people like you who are local radio hosts or local editors, but may not understand the science or may not know where to get the information in a crisis or where to get trusted information. And we really look at local DJs, local reporters, local editors to work with us to bridge the communication gap and bridge, as you noted, the cultural distrust that's there because we can't come in with the answer to that question, but we can come in and help them work together with the international community to find the answers to those questions. And then because they are a trusted voice, they're the best ones to have that conversation within the community and start to answer some of those questions.
And there have been journalists in Guinea who lost their lives. Just a couple months ago, pretty early on in the epidemic, along with health workers. It's frontline work in many cases, what they're doing.
KH: Yeah, I guess it is. You mentioned these suitcase radio stations. The last time I saw one of those was in Arcata, when Free Arcata Radio…this was about fifteen years ago…we had our own little underground radio station that the guy cobbled together. Now is this something you guys made? Do you have like a laboratory or something that makes those or is it something that you put together based on something your find in the area?
MR: I wish we had a laboratory that could produce those, that would be pretty cool. But unfortunately it's not quite that sophisticated. If you're doing low power FM and you're reaching a pretty tight affected community, there's just a shopping list of things you need to make it happen. You can actually fit it in a few suitcases. The masts are pretty compact. They pack down pretty easily. So we call it suitcase radio because we go with a couple suitcases and when you open them all up, you can actually get broadcasting. So it's probably a little less nifty sounding how I describe it, but that's what it is. It's not anything that's patented but any radio engineer could probably pull together what she or he needs to get one of these operational. It's probably not that far off from what a pirate radio station is.
KH: Yeah, well it didn't work out so well in Arcata because the FCC came to town with their vans and antennas and they triangulated in on the guy and shut him down. They went right to his little place where he was on Eye Street and found him and said you can't do this anymore.
MR: Yeah, we have a pirate station in DC that just pops up in random places and keeps moving. I don't think they found them yet but they keep going.
KH: Well, I can understand the reason why. Sometimes they can interfere although these guys were operating only on a 40 watt bulb or something. I'm looking actually at a flyer that Henri brought here and the person showing the DRC radio station. And the woman is using the exact same windscreen I have on my microphone at home. So have you used these suitcase getups in the DRC?
HP: Not really. We have well-established community radios. Small but well-established community radios in their own buildings.
KH: Some of these things I'm reading you're doing over there seem cutting-edge, even for the US, our wonderful and enlightened US here. You put a particular emphasis on training and crosscutting themes of gender, sexual and gender-based violence, anti-corruption and human rights.
HP: Yes, yes. We do that together with partner community radios and their reporters, editors-in-chief. We put together programming because those are sensitive issues in communities. Those are of highest interest in those communities so we help them to package, to produce broadcast programs on those issues.
KH: How long does it take to stand up some type of local media? I imagine it's different in different places, of course, but if you go someplace that doesn't have a tradition of independent media or journalism, how long can it take and do you see it through the bitter end, until something 's going? Anyone can answer this question.
MR: It really depends on the place. In a crisis, you can get up and on the air very, very quickly. Again it depends on local licensing. We found that emergency licenses in most of the places we go, even in some places in Pakistan, in places like Kashmir after the earthquake, there where you would think it would be hard, we got emergency licenses pretty quickly to get radio stations on the air because it was a place where there wasn't any media before.
KH: When you say licenses, is there like an FCC? Are you talking a license from the government to just even do it?
MR: There's usually something that's similar to the FCC, whether there's two bodies, one that does the licensing and one that allocates the frequency, that actually gives you the number on the dial. Sometimes those are two different bodies, but there's usually some government body similar to the FCC that will allocate a frequency and manages the spectrum. So that's consistent in most places.
And in places like Afghanistan what was key, because we don't want anything we support to completely disappear the minute we leave, so in a place like Afghanistan, we convene communities. And went community by community and there was a lot of community work that happened so that as the station was being built, it wasn't our station, it was their station. And the station belonged to the community. In some places, communities donated land or donated resources. And these radio stations in a place like Afghanistan where when we started over a decade ago there were no radio stations. There was no media. It was a complete blank slate post-Taliban. The communities really value these stations. In five of the stations – we work with over fifty there now that have all been built over the time of our work there – five of them are women-owned and operated. And we've seen several cases where different stations have come under attack, and the community really rallies around them. So the key is when we're going in and actually building something, which again is the exception rather than the rule, is that it belongs to the community from the very start and is owned by the community.
KH: It's rather astounding that women could be doing that in that country where women have such a problem, they seem very repressed by their native culture. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.
MR: So in terms of women and gender there's still a long way to go but there's also a long way that they have come in the past decade. You know it's easy to hear nothing but bad news from there but if you think back to twelve years ago, there actually is an astounding difference. Even though right now it's a very troubled place and challenging place. Yeah, but five of the stations are owned by women and they're an impressive bunch. They've actually come together to jointly produce a radio program about women that they share with all fifty plus members of the network of stations. So not only do they own their own station, but they've come together to produce content jointly as well, to share with everyone else.
KH: With regard to standing up and institutionalizing this independent media, Henri, do you have comments?
HP: Yes, what Marjorie is saying is what we are doing in the DRC. The community radio stations do not belong to us. We found them already there. We selected the best among, those community radios, we work with them, we did not set them up. What we do is to help them get their legal status, if they didn't have their license because they go off the community's will then we help them to have their legal status, registration and licenses and so on.
And I want to add that we have a community radio, partner community radio like that in DRC that belongs to women only. They put it together to broadcast the issues of concern for them in a remote place – the southern Kivu Province inside of the DRC – which is experiencing a lot of sexual-based violence. So the women who are there came together to build their own radio and then do their radio work to raise community awareness on their plight about sexual-based violence.
KH: That must be incredibly empowering for these women to suddenly have a voice and a job and be in touch with other people. That must be an incredible feeling.
HP: Yes, you're right. Not only for the women, for the whole community. It empowers the whole community to fight, to be with those women fighting evil behavior.
KH: How do you, you know one of the issues with the US assisting the moderate quote unquote rebels in Syria is, we're going to give them arms or whatever, how do we ensure that they don't end up with people in the extreme sides? How do you do that? I mean if you go in and set up some infrastructure or say set up a radio station, how does Internews ensure that it doesn't get taken over by some political or religious zealot culture and hijacked?
MR: Well, we only work with local media that shares our values of journalistic integrity and accurate and balanced news and information. We select our partners that have already shown a commitment to producing news, not just commercial programming or entertainment. And again, it's having our teams on the ground be local and as locally rooted as possible. And if they were to see something, they listen to the content, they read the content and they see the dialogue that's happening. So if something were to go awry, they could put up a warning early on. But it really comes down to the selection of partners and we have seen media. There have been situations where the media has been used as a tool for hate speech in places. The Rwandan genocide is probably the most well-known example, which is why we think it is so important to work with media and especially local media.
We've been working in Kenya for over a decade and actually started there working on health and HIV programs because the media was doing a really great job at perpetuating stigma, but not a great job at covering what was actually happening and debunking myths and encouraging people to get tested and know their status and to diffuse stigma. We were there when the post-election violence happened in Kenya and all of these media that we worked with, which in that case were mostly national, came to us and said there's violence breaking out. There were cases of media mostly local media, community media that was in local languages, not in English or Swahili, that was seen as perpetuating hate speech and they came to us and said, what can we do?
So we all sat down together, we convened them and we started a dialogue with editors and journalists, talking about what was happening. Where is the hate speech coming from? What can we do? How can you be better prepared? And what we found in the end that much of the problem was actually local radio hosts were getting calls that were hateful and weren't necessarily equipped to handle them. So we shifted our focus. We stayed focused on health and HIV, but also added a whole layer of working with local language radio and community radio in the Rift Valley and other parts of Kenya, where the violence was the most extreme, to help local DJs, talk show hosts, journalists understand hate speech and be able to manage it better. So if they got a call in, they were already well prepared. They knew what they had to do to diffuse a potentially hostile situation. So, that's just sort of one example of how we deal with it. But because the hate speech is out there, we actually think what we do is even more important. Because if we can help people be prepared not to go down that road and to understand what it is and also be ready to mitigate it when it comes across their airwaves in the forms of calls or guests in studio. So there are a lot of ways to mitigate it.
But it comes back to selecting the right partners to work with and finding those trusted, reliable editorially strong voices.
KH: Sure, just as a little caution to readers. Apparently the electricity grid is to going to go down here at Humboldt State here momentarily. We're not sure what's going to happen. We apparently have backup power although you just never know. So if we go off the air…
MR: That happens to us all the time everywhere we work.
HP: Especially in DRC. That's one of the problems those community radios face there – the breakdown of power provision – and almost all of them work with generators. Now we are equipping them with solar electricity kits.
KH: What other organizations does Internews work with? You just don't just walk in there and try and do everything yourself. I know that you work with local people. Are there any other nongovernment organizations or government organizations that you frequently coordinate with?
HP: Yes, apart from CBOs – community-based organizations that set up those community radios – we work with two national NGOs that are in the DRC. The first one is Journalists in Danger – its mission is to protect journalists when they are dragged to court, they are imprisoned, they are arrested in the course of their professional duties. So, that's one of our partners there. And then the second one, not the least, is Congolese Women in the Media Association. It's one of our biggest partners there. And they are mandated to promote women as credible voices, as credible media managers and accurate as credible media professionals. We've been working with them for the last two years.
KH: And do you work with academics too? I don't know what educational system is, for example, in the DRC, but do you try and tap into that as well?
HP: Yes, they are associated with our programming. Just today, I was reading the terms of reference for one of our colleagues who has to make a presentation at the Catholic University in Kinshasa to promote, to let them know what we are doing, what Internews is doing in the country for the media – for legislative reforms and regulations regarding the media and institutional capacity in the government for those media. So not so closely but we have links, links with academia.
KH: The Congo is a large, physically large country, I think you said. 2.3 million square kilometers. I imagine. So there are urban centers. Do you sort of stay in urban centers? Do you try and disperse out to the most remote places?
HP: Remote places, mainly. We have a few community radios in urban centers but most of them are in remote places, grassroot communities.
KH: How is Internews funded? From where does it get its funding?
MR: Sure. I can answer that. I'd just like to say one more thing about a comment Henri Paul made and that was about working with organizations such as Journalists in Danger in DRC. Journalism globally is an incredibly dangerous profession. So in addition to working with journalists on their editorial skills and ethics and their sustainability, we have, increasingly over the years, have added the ability to support them on their physical and digital security. Because most of the places we work, being a journalist is also a dangerous career, whether you're covering corruption or organized crime or just finding yourself in the middle of a conflict and covering a conflict or an insecure situation. It's unfortunately become part of doing business and I'm a former broadcast journalist, former TV journalist and have experience with myself so I understand the need. But it's something that we may not talk about as much as other things, but it's really important for these people to be able to continue doing their jobs as safely as possible.
In terms our funding, we're an independent nonprofit organization and, as such, as most independent nonprofits, we depend primarily on grants and donations. Our donors include individuals, foundations, private sector organizations, governments, multilateral institutions and a whole bunch of other nonprofit like ourselves. So we work with a real mix. We do get the majority of our funding from different parts of the US government, but it's also mixed in with support from other governments such as the Canadian government, the Australian government and a whole mix of foundations from MacArthur to Rockefeller to the Knight foundation and a lot of smaller foundations. Organizations like Google as well are our supporters and we collaborate with all of the big social media that are out there as well, from…Facebook is huge in many parts of the world. YouTube, Twitter. All of these are platforms that people are using so we stay in contact with those organizations too.
KH: Yeah, I'm looking at the list of your donors on your website and there's USAID and a lot of UN organizations and World Health Organization and then a lot of private donors and the benevolent foundations, and so forth. How do you retain your independence? I would imagine that the perception of independence is absolutely crucial in doing this sort of work.
MR: Yes, and as a journalist organization, we think about this all the time. And all funders and governments, private or public have an agenda, and they fund that agenda. And we really carefully review project by project, and if our goals match the goals of a certain funder or project we'll move forward and if not we'll say no. But we really work hard to define our goals, define our policies and organizational vision and separate from the policy of any particular donor. And we have our own internal strategy sessions and definition of what we want to do and then we look at where it aligns. So that that's how we deal with it. We're very much peers and colleagues when we go into work with people and I think that helps a lot in terms of perception, because many of us are former journalists ourselves and have long history in the places where we're working. So we're working with peers…for me personally, having been an international journalist and in the international press corps and in many places from Somalia to Chechnya and Bosnia, the ability to go back now that I'm sort of on this second phase of my career and working with Internews and work with the local journalists that I'd always come in and gotten to know, but then had to leave. Now I can work with them for years and assist is tremendously satisfying and it's the strong peer-to-peer relationships as well that helps us be so successful.
KH: Does Internews use volunteers or interns or is everyone compensated? I guess I'm thinking like a lot of people have a compulsion to do good in the world and I'm just wondering if it could be like the Peace Corps, if someone can volunteer to work with you guys?
MR: We do have interns. We have some interns in DC. We work with several universities that have schools of communication or journalism internally and in many cases they've given us fellows that are actually funded by the school. And we have had a few situations where fellows have gone to work out of our Bangkok office for a semester or out of Kiev in Ukraine and they come fully funded from their institutions to do masters level research. We've had some other people come up to us and say, can we do research with you? So it has happened. I don't know Erica if you want to talk about volunteer opportunities in Arcata.
EF: They do come up from time to time but it is our business side so it's not the exciting journalism work that Marjorie can offer out of the DC office. But we definitely have opportunities and we encourage folks to let us know if they're interested in coming and doing something.
KH: Is there anything else like Internews in the world in some other country or in this country? Are there any other organizations kind of modeled the same way, that have the same mission?
MR: We have several years in this work, which is great. So we're actually a community of organizations. Some have more focused areas of specialty. Some focus more on the security or more on the content or some go in deeper on investigative reporting. But we've come together as a community of, I think it's probably over a hundred organizations that include local organizations and regional organizations and international ones, like ourselves, and the Global Forum for Media Development so that we have a place to gather to share experience and best practices and learn from each other. But we do have colleagues out there, which is great. They're not all based in the US. They're really all over the world. So we're were not alone, which is a good thing. And we work together wherever we can.
KH: Ok, we're running low on time. I think Henri has a point.
HP: Yes. In the DRC, we work with Foundation Hirondelle. It's a media organization based in Switzerland. They are one of our international partners.
MR: Kevin, if I could make one more point. I love it when Erica was talking about being a HSU grad and being able to go to Internews. We actually were talking about HSU in the office not too long ago and realized we have three HSU grads in the DC office working here who had both found their paths to the organization different ways but had all come out of Humboldt State. And I don't know if they all got to know about us through Arcata connections, but it's also kind of cool that we have grads that turn up in DC just like Erica said. We have some people who are from the community and go out into the world into Peace Corps and then come back and get a job in Arcata. We also have some who make their way to the East Coast.
KH: Well, that's great. I guess you can act locally and globally at the same time, especially in Arcata. We've been talking to folks from Internews. Marjorie Rouse, Senior Vice President for Programs, Erica Feldkamp, Vice President of Administration, and Henri Paul. He's Chief of Party in the DRC, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I just saw one thing on your website. Someone said, when individuals can speak their minds, when technology is adapted to serve the needs of local communities, we see a change. Governments and institutions are more accountable and individuals live with dignity. That's universal. That's why we do journalism here in the USA too.
I'd like to thank our guests from Internews for being on Thursday Night Talk tonight. I learned a lot about what you do and it's just great. And maybe we need something like that here domestically too sometimes. I'd like to thank our producer Karel, as always for doing such a great job and also congratulations again to Doctor Michael Fratken, for getting his resolution care thing going. Thanks for joining us tonight. See you next week.