Teens in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine investigate media, truth, and propaganda at summer camp

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TBILISI, Georgia — A lifetime ago, when Maia Mikashavidze was a young girl and this country was ensnared in the Soviet web, she wore the red kerchief of the Young Pioneers, recited odes to communism and watched gray-faced announcers on gray television screens intoning centrally-approved news she remembers as equally gray.

Today there are no Young Pioneers in Georgia, and young people there move around the internet with the same dazzling fluency as other teens around the world, speeding from social media to news sites on their phones, laptops and tablets. And yet, says Mikashavidze, now one of her country’s most prominent journalism professors, her nation’s teenagers are as little prepared to evaluate the accuracy and trustworthiness of the news as she was when it came at her. …

During the “16 Days of Activism” campaign, Internews partnered with women’s organizations to improve reporting and debate on sexual based violence.

In the conflict-torn Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a big step was taken in the fight against impunity in sexual violence cases during the United Nations campaign, “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.”

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A woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Anne Ackermann

The two main women’s media organizations in DRC teamed up with Internews to conduct forums and talk shows with the goal of improving reporting on the issue and bringing the debate to the public’s attention.

The issue of impunity was brought to the forefront by the arrest of eighteen members of the “Army of Jesus” (l’Armée de Jésus), a militia led by Frédéric Batumike, a member of the South Kivu provincial Parliament. They are accused of abducting and raping at least 46 young girls, aged 8 months to 12 years old, around Kavumu from 2013 to 2016. Kavumu is a small city located near Bukavu, South Kivu’s capital city. …

In advance of October’s historic election, 126 public debates were held in every single district of Liberia, a first for this post-conflict nation, enabling lower house candidates to reach Liberia’s electorate in person — many for the first time.

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Early in the morning on August 23, 2017, many people were still in bed as the voice of a middle-aged man carrying a megaphone echoed across the historic town of Buutuo, Liberia. …

In Kenya’s Turkana county, journalists face risk from conflict, difficult terrain, and political targeting

Pah! Pah! Pah! The gunshots roared.

“Wee badilisha magazine! Change the magazine!” ordered the cop.

Pah! Pah! Pah! The police-issue G3 rifles spat in hair-splitting continuity. In the mayhem, the cop tells Ken Simiyu to not fear, to just keep on the ground, to stay still.

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Ken Simiyu of Radio Akicha reported on about peace talks between warring West Pokot and Turkana communities. During the talks in January 2016, in Lobei Kataruk, Turkana County where most people are armed, the participants were asked to lay their guns down as a sign of goodwill.

Simiyu, a journalist with Akicha radio, which broadcasts in Turkana, the marginalized Kenyan county nestled 700km north of the capital Nairobi, lay on the ground next to police inspector Kipkorir Koech, whose index finger never left the trigger.

Something hit Simiyu, and he felt a burning sensation in his hands and face. He thought he was hit by a bandit’s bullet — they are sharpshooters and masters of camouflage. …

A radio reporter unfamiliar with data journalism finds his calling while investigating the Guatemalan health system.

“Prior to my training with Internews, I had never worked with data because, quite honestly, I didn’t know how,” recounts Ovidio Sanic Larios, a radio journalist based in Guatemala. Ovidio has documented how residents of the Guatemalan border towns of Jutiapa, Jalapa, and his hometown of Chiquimula, must travel to El Salvador to receive medical attention. “To visit hospitals on both sides of the border was quite the experience. I never expected to see first-hand such an inconsistency in medical treatment.”

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Ovidio Sanic Larios. Credit Internews

“My initial hypothesis was that the public health crisis in Guatemala and Honduras had increased the number of patients who travel to El Salvador to receive medical attention. After witnessing the vast number of Guatemalans receiving care in Salvadoran hospitals, I realized that I had enough cases to allow for an investigation devoted solely to my home country,” said Ovidio, with some relief. …

Liberian journalists keep in touch with their local communities and their needs around health information.

“Having the opportunity to tell stories from these rural communities is like telling our own stories. We are inspired by the relationship with people we know.” — Alpha Senkpeni, LACSA Radio, Grand Bassa in Liberia.

Ebola is over, but the stories that linger in Liberia will be local journalists’ task to tell for a long time to come, says Alpha Senkpeni. Spending a day with Alpha and other Liberian journalists is a refreshing reminder of how community radio works: by listening and then relaying and listening again. And the questions he asks his audience all the time are: What do you want? What bothers you? What do you feel? …

A Sri Lankan reporter stands up to the trend to portray gratuitous content, including footage of suicides, on the news.

Asela Kuruluwansha is used to seeing horrific footage on nightly newscasts aired over Sri Lankan TV channels. He is often left repulsed and makes sure that his young children are prevented from watching them. A difficult task given that the news in the local languages sometimes follows right after the cartoons finish.

But beyond shielding his kids, Asela, a senior journalist with the state-owned Dinamina, one of Sri Lanka’s largest circulation Sinhala daily newspapers, had not taken any other action.

Recently though he has been moved to take action over the reportage of suicide in local media. “It is not right, just because there is footage or intimate details, we should not go to press, there should be moral judgment over the news judgment,” Asela told Internews senior journalism trainer Amantha Perera last week. …

Girl bikers, young photographers and advocacy campaigns are some of the highlights of the Afghan Youth Voices Festival.

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Young people in Afghanistan participated in a series of activities comprised of trainings, cultural events, media development and advocacy campaigns as part of the annual Afghan Youth Voices Festival.

Highlights of the Festival, which took place in five provinces from March through August 2017, included a media campaign by the Kabul Girls Bike Riders and a photo exhibition called, Afghanistan through the Eyes of Youth.

Kabul Girls Bike Riders

Although women in Afghanistan are not officially banned from riding bicycles, it is still frowned upon. …

In Cote d’Ivoire, community organizations learn how to get their messages out to advocate for the rights of the LGBT community.

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Community organizations participate in workshops to learn how to advocate for their issues through social media.

Nicolas Vako worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross for twenty years, traveling all over Africa and Eastern Europe. He left the Red Cross and returned to his home town of Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire to set up a restaurant selling “maquis de crabe,” a crab specialty from his wife’s village.

His “retirement” didn’t last long though — conditions for people with HIV/AIDS were desperate in Abidjan and Nicolas felt compelled to help after former associates sought him out for advice. …

Liberians went to the polls on 10 October 2017 to elect the President and House of Representatives. In the run-up to elections everywhere in the world, party politics, campaign trails and — more often than not — character assassination drive the news agenda. Health stories don’t make the front page. In fact, health stories hardly make the front page, ever. But a group of Liberian journalists have changed that.

Especially during election times, the thinking used to be that only politics sells. But there’s a new kind of story we are looking for, and it is about what is done for the health of people? So it combines politics and health,” says Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, Front Page Africa editor. …



At Internews, we work to ensure that a free flow of trusted information empowers people to make informed decisions about their lives and their futures.

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