Over 500 Public Interest Stories Produced in 10-Month Mobile Journalism (MOJO) Citizen Journalism Mentorship Program in Malaysia

Virpi Kukkasniemi-Leino, Counsellor, Political Officer at the Delegation of the EU to Malaysia delivers her opening remarks

Internews in Malaysia together with NGOHub and SOLS 24/7 launched the MOJO Citizen Journalism Mentorship Program in June 2021 to increase the production of community-driven stories using digital devices and channels. The program, which was supported by the European Union, trained 245 Citizen Journalists or mentees in core journalism skills such as storytelling, corroboration and verification, packaging content for mobile device, and journalism ethics.

Over the 10 months in which it ran, 583 stories were produced in the form of articles, videos, photo essays, infographics, and podcasts. Under the guidance of 10 experienced journalists and media practitioners, the mentees generated original content covering various themes including Health, Basic Human Rights, Education, Poverty & Socio-Economic Injustice and the Environment which were published on the program’s social media pages and landing page.

Virpi Kukkasniemi-Leino delivering opening remarks.

These stories provide viewpoints that are different than the ones produced by government-controlled media and help to amplify diverse voices and underrepresented issues which cover the rights of women, youths and marginalised communities such as ethnic minorities, People with Disabilities, LGBTQIA+ and the Orang Asal (Indigenous) groups in the country. The mentees who hail from 12 states and one Federal Territory, reached a wide audience through their stories and brought attention to pertinent issues such as unequal citizenship rights in Malaysia, youths and freedom of expression, mental state of athletes during the pandemic and challenges in wildlife conservation. Through the program, small grants were also offered to the mentees to produce videos and organise townhalls in their own society – all aimed at facilitating ongoing dialogue between local communities and authorities.

To conclude the program, a closing ceremony was held on May 27, 2022, in Kuala Lumpur which was attended by 59 people comprising mentors and mentees, non-governmental organisations and media representatives. Speaking at the hybrid event, Virpi Kukkasniemi-Leino, Counsellor, Political Officer at the Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia remarked that the MOJO program has established a strong foundation in providing local communities particularly marginalised and vulnerable populations with real time information on issues affecting their lives. “We (the EU) believe that an empowered civil society is a crucial component of any governance system, equitable development and is an asset in itself. The harvest presented and experienced today is an excellent example of working together and engaging with a broad spectrum of Civil Society Organisations, local authorities, and stakeholders.”

One of the mentors, Kumaran Rajamoney, a Broadcast Journalist with TV3, reflected on his involvement in the program as a two-way learning process: “Being in the (media) industry, we have learnt a lot but educating the mentees is another way of us learning to share new things and what our mentees share with us are also new.”

Eow Shiang Yen, a mentee whose work focuses on interfaith dialogue, gained technical knowledge and skills in utilising new media, and improved his process of creating meaningful content: “It (MOJO) can be used as a powerful tool to inform the policy makers, and even better to inspire more among your ranks to join this initiative, because nowadays with one device, with internet connectivity and with one platform, there’s an opportunity to have our voices heard.”

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