Happy New Year from Internews!
In 2017, Internews will celebrate its 35th anniversary. Over the past 35 years, we and others in the media development field have evolved as the information landscape has changed.
We realize the challenges we face in growing healthy information systems are getting larger all the time. Fake news, disinformation, propaganda, hate speech, rumor, information chaos — these are now shared global concerns. In order to unlock the promise of global access to trusted information, we must remain committed to using our creativity, our resources and our global connectivity to address these pressing challenges.
Never has the work we do been more important.
We believe that high quality, local information is a root solution to advancing social, economic, and political progress. Information is key to supporting strong and resilient health systems, addressing climate change, serving the needs of marginalized communities, resolving conflict, and supporting governments that serve the needs of all citizens.
In this past year, our work included shining a light on government corruption and countering propaganda. I am pleased to share some of our best stories from this year as we look to an empowered, creative and healthy 2017.
Empowering Women and Marginalized Groups to Participate Online
Due to the rise of Internet use and social media engagement, more people than ever before have access to information and the freedom to air their views. One major adverse effect we are seeing in almost every country we work, from Africa to Asia to Latin America and here in the US, is a marked increase in online harassment and violence against women and other marginalized groups.
Internews works to help people in Colombia, Sri Lanka and many other countries stay safe online and partners with local organizations to make sure women, human rights advocates, LGBT activists, people with disabilities, and religious minorities can continue to have their voices heard.
“The participants came to accept that every religion has its own way to peace and we have to avoid blind nationalism in order to live in harmony. Their mindset has changed positively.” — Hsu Hsu, trainer for Safe Online Space in Myanmar
Demanding Accountability from Government
Good investigative reporting, documentation through the use of drones and mining data can help produce stories that hold governments to account and press them to enact change when necessary.
“This empowered them. It gave them a chance they didn’t have before. They are involved in a struggle and a choice every day, to work on these types of stories, to reveal the pieces, to improve the quality of their work to fight the system.” — Angela Sirbu, Project Director at the Independent Journalism Center in Chisinau, talking about the journalists who attended the Internews workshop in Moldova
In Kenya, data journalism reveals the inequalities in childhood education. An investigative report by Burmese journalist Swe Win that revealed that abuses and exploitation are rife in Myanmar’s prison labor camps got a reaction from the government. And in South Sudan, women went directly to their local radio station to demand action on food and water supplies.
Propaganda and Fake News
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a local organization, Journaliste en Danger, works to defend and promote press freedom and ensure journalists are ready to combat threats and fake news:
“I know that there are lots of manipulations and disinformation campaigns on social media but the way to address this is not to shut down the access. Social media are now one of the main space for the democratic debate. When rumors and fake news are spreading on social networks, the best way to address the issue is to publish and share the right information.” — Tshivis Tshivuadi, JED General Secretary and one of the founders of Journaliste en Danger
Tracking and Addressing Rumors
During humanitarian crises or in the aftermath of a natural disaster, even small rumors can create unnecessary stress or worse, be a matter of life and death. The need for timely and factual information is acute. After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Internews launched Open Mic Nepal to provide information people needed at the local level and to address rumors and misinformation.
“Even though people love to spread rumors, people also love a good night’s rest. In my aunt’s case, it turned out that although some of the walls at the zoo were damaged in the earthquake, no tigers or other animals had escaped.” — Indu Nepal, Humanitarian Information Manager, referring to a rumor about an escaped tiger
A special issue of In the Loop called Our eyes, our future, our dreams features the voices and artwork of refugee and migrant children in Greece.
Empowering Marginalized Groups to Participate in the Creation of Media
Refugees, people with disabilities and others are often discussed in the media without an outlet for them to tell their own stories in their own voices.
In October, refugees in Europe were given the opportunity to express their hopes and frustrations through photography and multimedia workshopsoffered in Greece. And in South Sudan, in a camp for people displaced by conflict, young people record audio and conduct interviews with members of their community.
From a deaf journalist advocating for disability rights in Nigeria to a physically disabled woman in Afghanistan helping start a disability issues radio program, people with disabilities are starting to produce their own media and address disability issues from their point of view.
“It is the voice of the disabled community. We receive dozens of phone calls every week from people around the country thanking us for the information we give them.” — Haji Nader, who lost an arm in a rocket explosion, co-produced a disability program in Afghanistan with Amina Azimi, who lost her leg in an explosion.
To help marginalized groups feel safe online so their voices aren’t silenced, Internews’ USABLE project works to design and build digital security tools that are easy to use and accessible.
Helping Local Communities Engage Health and Environmental Issues
In Africa, Internews supports journalists in their local contexts to report the science of HIV and dispel rumor and myth. For the first time, the Global Village at AIDS 2016 featured a Research Literacy Networking Zone, a space where advocates, community members, conference presenters and researchers and the media engaged to discuss the science and how to make it understood.
A radio program in Guinea built on the success of its Ebola coverage to create a model for broader health reporting. Journalists engage the community by soliciting questions about health that are answered on the air.
And in the Central African Republic, radio programs about preventing Cholera are brought to where they’re needed most. Boats carrying the program move from village to village delivering critical health programming to remote locations where the epidemic began.
The Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP), conducted by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network, has funded more than 241 journalists to attend the UN Conventions on Climate Change where they’ve produced more than 3,000 stories. In the process, they’ve created an earpiece — and a voice — for some of climate change’s worst-affected communities.
“My mother’s family is a family of fisherman. They see the effects of climate change and environmental destruction on their communities every day. But in the news, you tend to only read about the environment on a slow news day. Changing that is what’s important to me. We are starting to see the number of stories increasing, and with it, our ability to put pressure on agencies like the Department of Energy.” — Purple Romero, environmental journalist from the Philippines who attended COP22
Jeanne Bourgault is President of Internews.