Your Phone is Smarter than You Think!

Mchanga Haroub is a senior journalist and Head of Production at Zanzibar Broadcasting Corporation on Pemba Island. She bought a smartphone fifteen years ago and was among the first local journalists to own one. However, Mchanga says she did not realize her smartphone’s true potential until she attended a recent workshop in videography and citizen journalism, organized by Internews’ Boresha Habari (‘Better News’) project.

“I paid a lot of money for my phone, but until this course, I had little idea of how to use it for my work. At last, I see the true potential of its advanced multimedia capabilities; they offer many advantages for busy journalists like me; now I can produce and publish stories, photos, and videos direct from the field, making the news cycle faster and more efficient.”

The Boresha Habari workshop on Pemba Island lasted three days and offered practical training for journalists working in print, broadcasting, and social media. Organized by Internews and combining indoor sessions with field trips, it aimed to equip journalists with the skills and tools they need to improve media content and become more professional. The journalists learned how to use smartphones to take photos, record audio, and shoot/edit videos.

Fatma Hamad of Swahiba FM says the training has opened her eyes. “Really, it was amazing, I had no idea that we could gather and produce such wonderful content on just a smartphone. Lack of equipment can no longer be anyone’s excuse, right?”

But while smartphones are increasingly part of the news cycle and offer hope to even less experienced journalists, new laws such as the Media Service Act (2016) mean their future careers may not be easy. According to those who attended the Internews training, most journalists in Pemba cannot even start a blog anymore, because the new registration rules make it too expensive and cumbersome, which means, as one journalist said, “Instead, our social media is now dominated by wedding photos.”

The Electronic and Postal Communications (online content) Regulations published earlier this year, gives Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) the power to regulate online content by keeping a register of all bloggers, online forums, online radio and TV outlets. Failure to observe the regulations is punished with fines of TZS 5 million ($2000), a minimum of 12 months in jail or both.

Despite this, Internews trainer Amini Suwed says that acquiring knowledge liberates journalists, as well as challenging them to work harder.

“When journalists learn how to use a smartphone to produce news, they also learn that the public has as an insatiable appetite for news – this challenges their professional ability to capture video, photos, sound and to transmit the next story, to the world, in seconds.”

Senior journalist Haji Nassor Mohd, who runs the Pemba Today web site agrees. “This training helps us to engage and be far more productive than ever before.”

By Ali Haji Mwadinis, Internews Media Trainer, Zanzibar