Newsletter February 2010

Newsletter February 2010

(Partly in Danish/partly in English)

Fra køer på Djursland til journalistik i Afrika

Af Flemming Seiersen, frivillig og lærer på mission i Gambia.

Der er langt fra at passe rødbroget kødkvæg i en løsdriftsstald på det vinterprægede Djursland til afrikansk kultur og journalistik i Gambia sådan en januardag i 2010. Både fysisk og mentalt. Køer Djursland

Temperaturerne er der også stor forskel på. Sådan cirka 35 grader. Derfor tog jeg et par billeder med af den snedækkede Højgaard på Djursland og køerne i den lune stald til den gambianske hovedstad Banjul. Jeg vil vise dem til de 20 afrikanske journalister, jeg skal undervise. For sådan ligesom at prøve at slå bro over den på alle måder brede kløft.
Det lykkes.

For vi kom til at snakke både om køer, hvordan jeg bor, det danske samfund, deres egen dagligdag i Afrika og meget mere den aller første time. Vi kommer tættere på hinanden, og de opdager, at en journalistisk underviser fra Danmark griber tingene en hel del anderledes an end afrikanske undervisere. De er vant til timelange enetaler. En gammeldags katederundervisning, som jeg husker det fra min tid i den danske realskole i 50’erne.

Diskussioner og aktivitet
Her på dette 2-årige uddannelsesforløb er vi i gang med diskussioner med det samme om journalisternes og mediernes rolle i Gambia. Kursisterne er ivrige, selv om der er mindst 25 graders varme. Det er de også da vi gennemgår de første 10 hjemmeopgaver, de har skrevet til mig. Her er der kun enkelte, der har overholdt kravet om højst 100 ord i artiklen. Andre har skrevet et par A4-sider. De skriver lange artikler til daglig for at få et højere honorar. Det med længden får vi nu hurtigt styr på med den næste opgave.

Det lyder som et voldsomt skænderi
Den uformelle stemning, vi i fællesskab skaber fra starten af, fortsætter resten af ugen. Det betyder, at de er meget åbne og modtagelige for at lære nyt. Dette første af i alt 12 journalistiske moduler (læs om hele projektet i Lars Møllers artikel)  drejer sig mest om at finde og skrive nyheder. Nyhedskriterier, vinkling, overskrift og indledning.

Da jeg læser deres hjemmeopgaver, som de har skrevet til mig på forhånd, tænker jeg, hvordan får disse 20 afrikanske journalister det lært på en uge. Jeg kigger ud over flokken, der har dannet fire grupper. De står eller sidder ved hvide haveborde af plastik, fem omkring hver. Og der er gang i den. De prøver at finde både gode og dårligt skrevne nyheder i de lokale aviser.  De diskuterer på livet løs.

De er meget højrøstede. Prøver at overdøve hinanden. Ja, det lyder faktisk som et voldsomt skænderi. Det er også en kulturforskel, som vi nok bliver nødt til at snakke om.  Både for at bringe støjniveauet ned og for at lære dem, at de kun skal tale en af gangen. Ellers kan ingen høre noget som helst.

Problemer de samme over hele verden
Jeg har undervist i journalistik i vel omkring 25 lande så forskellige som Mongoliet, Cambodia, Rusland, Montenegro, Grønland og Danmark. Mens jeg går rundt midt i den livlige flok, kan jeg ikke lade være med at tænke på, at et af de helt basale problemer i journalistikken er det samme verden over. Også i Danmark. Siden jeg begyndte at undervise i journalistik i udlandet for 20 år siden, er det det samme spørgsmål hele tiden: Hvad er historien? Hvad er nyheden? Hvad er det vigtigste? Og så få lavet den rigtige overskrift og indledning.  Det lyder så let, men er så svært. Og nogle journalister lærer det aldrig.

Learning by doing – again and again
Men metoden til at lære også det er enkel: Learning by doing, again and again i hver ny øvelse og opgave, som de får.  Og de lærer det. Det viser sig i artikler i aviserne på trejde-dagen. Fine overskrifter, indledninger og historier på forsiderne, som nogle af dem har skrevet aftenen før.

Ja, men så kan jeg jo godt tage hjem, siger jeg, men det synes de nu ikke, så vi fortsætter, og de bliver bedre og bedre. Også til at give hinanden efterkritik på artikler.

Jeg spotter flere gode undervisere i flokken. Nogle af dem bliver forhåbentlig lærere for deres kolleger. Det er også formålet med denne uddannelse.

Ophidset kursist skrider
Der er dog også mørke stunder i Gambia Press Union’s nye og lyse undervisningslokale. Vi beder seks kursister om at blive, efter de andre 14 er gået sidst på dagen. Vi er GPUs direktør Ahmed Alota og mig selv. De seks er kommet for sent de tre første dage. Vi beder dem om at møde til tiden, som de har skrevet under på, de vil, men en af kvinderne ophidser sig voldsomt:
– Jeg er gift og skal tidligt op for at komme til tiden. Det kan jeg bare ikke.
Det ender med hun skrider ud af lokalet, men kommer næste dag med en stor undskyldning for sin opførsel – skrevet ned på et stykke papir. Flot nok, men hun kommer dog stadig for sent et par gange.

Hvorfor gør du det her
Og så er det jeg tænker, altså hvorfor gør du det her gang på gang. Konfrontationer og til tider pinlige optrin med voksne mennesker i et fremmed land.

Balancen mellem ikke at virke som en ny koloniherre og holde den nødvendige disciplin er svær og pinagtig. Også selv om du kender problemerne med afrikanernes og for den sags skyld også mange andres manglende mødedisciplin. Det med tiden, tager de ikke så alvorligt. Vi når det jo nok.

Glæden overskygger problemerne
Uden også at komme ind på mediernes og journalisternes deprimerende og meget svære arbejdsvilkår (omtalt i artiklen “Gambia Press Union stærkere end nogensinde”), overskygger glæderne ved dette arbejde heldigvis problemerne. Også aftenen under palmerne på hotellet med cikadernes sang, varmen og et køligt glas hvidvin får en til næsten at glemme vinteren derhjemme. Det at kunne stille sin mangeårige erfaring med journalistik og undervisning til rådighed for kollegerne i Afrikas mindste og fattigste land gør en forskel.
En stor forskel endda.

Gambia journalism will never be the same again

By Aloa Ahmed Alota, executive director of GPU

I have always wanted to be part of something that is dynamic. Being appointed as executive director of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) offers me that opportunity.

Aloa Ahmed Alota
Demanding and challenging, my new job requires all the expertise and skills I have cultivated as a journalist, public relations man, free expression activist, trainer, author, and project coordinator. I welcome the opportunity and the challenge.

A revolutionary project
My primary task is to implement a two-year education in core journalism skills project, under the aegis of the Games-GPU Partnership. Known as ‘Media for Development – Development for Media’, the project is funded by the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DANIDA).

The ‘Media for Development – Development for Media’ project is bold, ambitious, and even revolutionary. That is why the course is termed ‘Professional Reporter’ – it seeks to ‘bring the media up to international professional media industry standards’. At the end of the two-year education, Gambia journalism will never be the same again.

Competitive tests
Twenty participants, after a series of rigorous and competitive tests and interviews, were chosen out of a pool of 48 applicants to take part in the course.

They are already being groomed to a professional level of proactive news reporting; interviewing; research; spot reportage; feature writing; and background journalism. As well as specializing in either print or radio, the participants are learning basic skills in print media, radio, photojournalism and web journalism.

And more importantly, participants will able to train colleagues with the skills and competencies they have gained from the course.

The Flemming formula
Flemming Seiersen set the tone of the course with his application of journalism theories to daily practice that meets the needs and sets the agenda of the readers and listeners.

With his hands-on and no-nonsense approach, Flemming Seiersen was able to during his 6-day teaching arouse participants’ interest in the course through practical work, group work, discussions, and peer-review.

By the end of his six days, the participants were already bursting with renewed interest in their work as they instantly applied some of the lessons learnt in news angling, headlines and leads in their day-to-day practice.
The Flemming formula is so effective that it should be emulated by other trainers.

Academic lectures
Before the arrival of Flemming, the participants had had a week-long lecture on public administration and good governance. It was handled by Dr Abubakar Senghore of the University of The Gambia.

And there was another one-week lecture on waste disposal in The Gambia. Representatives of the National Environmental Agency (NEA) were on hands to talk about waste management in The Gambia. Flemming was to use the waste issue for his journalistic assignment for the participants.

Computer lab
With the funds from the project, the GPU Secretariat, venue of the course, is in the process of being equipped with a computer laboratory and other information and communication technologies, including a mini-radio studio provided by Flemming.

So far 30,000 Euros have been transferred to meet all these expenses as well as staff salaries.

The passion of a love affair
Because this project is first of its kind in The Gambia, the Board and management of the GPU as well as the Games volunteers are all giving it their best to ensure its success and survival. What I feel for it is more than a commitment – I have thrown myself into it with the passion of a love affair.

My Gambian experience

By Donna Mayer, NGO-consultant, Project Advise and Training Centre (PATC) (Projektrådgivningen), which administers Danida’s Project Fund.

I had the opportunity to visit Gambia Press Union in late November 2009 as part of a monitoring visit to West Africa with the purpose of visiting several development projects which are implemented by Danish NGOs in collaboration with their local partner.

Donna Mayer with GPU staff member

I was so lucky to be able to time my visit with the selection process for the core group of 20 journalists who are participating in the two-year education in core journalism skills. Two things in particular really impressed me – the transparency of the selection process and the motivation and commitment of all the young journalists who I met.

A lot of competition
GPU and GAMES worked hard to establish a very open and transparent selection process in order to counteract any potential criticism, as there was a lot of competition to be selected.

Efforts were also made to ensure representation of the different media houses as well as media forms – although it proved more difficult with radio than with the print media. There were 48 applications in response to the advertisements which had been placed in many media.

A conscious effort was made to ensure the participation of young women journalists and several of these were directly encouraged to apply.

Well-articulated and directed young people
A written test was prepared for the 48 applicants. Of these, the 30 best were chosen according to a predetermined ranking system.

The lucky ones were asked back for a short 8 minute which was conducted by a representative from GAMES, the leader of the secretariat of GPU, an advisor to the GPU Board of Directors and a woman journalist for a Gambian NGO.

I was an observer and it really amazed me to see how well-articulated and directed these young people were: This was especially apparent in their responses to the question of why they wanted to be journalists when it is relatively low-paid and potentially dangerous profession, most recently exemplified by the arrests of the jailing of the 6 members of GPU in 2009

Twenty were chosen – 12 men and 8 women. I couldn’t help but shed a tear – both for those who got into the programme but also for them who didn’t make it this time around.
The programme is designed to develop a core group of trainers so there should be continuing training opportunities in the future – also for them that were not chosen this time.

Excitement in the air
The “chosen ones” were called in on very short notice to participate in the introductory seminar in the late afternoon, the day before the muslim holiday Tobaski (or Eid Al Adha).

Tobaski is a public holiday and families throughout the Gambia gather together to pray and celebrate, ritually slaughtering a ram to commemorate of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son, Ismail, in the name of Allah. This is comparable to inviting people to a workshop in the late afternoon of the 23rd of December in Denmark.

Nevertheless, almost everybody was there and there was a lot of excitement in the air.

A very solid groundwork for the future
All in all, it is my clear impression that the selection process had been a very positive learning experience and has laid a very solid groundwork for the future implementation of the journalist training as well as the project as a whole.

The partnership between GAMES and GPU is based on collegial cooperation which has its special expression in the media profession. This network is an important contribution to working towards free media and free expression in a difficult context.

Thanks to everyone from GPU and GAMES for making my visit so successful!

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Blå blink blå blink: Giv mig bærbar og et gammelt kamera

Af Lars Møller, formand og chefindsamler.

Har du en gammel bærbar eller et brugt digitalt kamera – så kender vi nogen, der gerne vil have det. Så snart som muligt.

Madi mangler
Som formand for Klubben af menneskerettigheds-journalister har den unge Madi Njie travlt med at skrive protester og ansøgninger om støtte. Madi er som regel den sidste, der går fra kontoret i GPU, fordi han har så meget han skal skrive. Og han har ingen computer derhjemme.

Jeg har lovet Madi at finde en brugt bærbar. Faktisk har jeg lovet hele bestyrelsen, og flere af dem står stadig på venteliste. Har du en til at ligge, eller kender et firma eller en studine, der lige har skiftet, så giv lyd. Du kan ikke vinde en rejse til Gambia, men næsten.

Kameraer til undervisning
Vi skal også bruge nogle kameraer til undervisningen på den nye journalistuddannelse. Til en begyndelse kan vi få stor glæde af et ældre digitalt kamera. Så igen: Kom gerne med det.

Nu også i København
Vi har også en indsamlingsadresse i København, på Østerbro faktisk, så hold dig ikke tilbage, hvis du bor deromkring.

På forhånd tak.

Vellykket start på træningen af 20 journalister i Gambia

Af Flemming Seiersen, frivillig og lærer på mission i Gambia

Starten på Gambia Press Unions og Games’  to-årige træningsprogram for 20 journalister i Gambia, “Professional Reporter”, blev en succes. Den første uge fra den 18. til den 23. januar i år lover godt for fremtiden.

Den konklusion er ikke kun min egen subjektive opfattelse. De daglige evalueringer og slut-evalueringen af 1. modul var meget positive.

Undervisning Flemming Seiersen

Det skyldes den interaktive undervisningsform med mange praktiske øvelser, diskussioner, inddragelse af deltagernes hverdag som journalister, deres erfaringer, meninger og deres fremlæggelser af resultaterne af gruppearbejde.

Kursisterne ønskede, at dette 1. modul skulle fortsætte en måned mere. Jeg kunne dog forsikre dem om, at de næste moduler vil blive mindst lige så gode.  De finder sted fra den 8. til den 13. marts med Birger Agergaard og 18. til 23. april med Lars Møller.

News reporting
De første seks dage af det to-årige lange uddannelsesforløb handlede om den helt basale news reporting, som kun nogle få af dem havde stiftet bekendtskab med.

Emnerne var bl.a. journalisternes og mediernes rolle i Gambia, “public og development journalism” specielt focuseret på landets store problemer med affald og miljøet, nyhedskriterier, vinkling, overskrift, indledning, nyheder i radioen, hvordan man skriver for øret og speaker, og hvordan man giver feedback.

20 forskellige vinkler på affald
I de praktiske øvelser var det store problem med affald overalt det gennemgående tema. Undervejs på 1. modul udviklede vi 20 forskellige vinkler om dette emne.

Det er de nu i gang med hver for sig at skrive artikler om, som så afleveres til feedback blandt deltagerne selv, deres engelsklærere, Birger Agergaard og jeg selv her i februar.

Inden jeg kom, var de blevet undervist i engelsk, havde modtaget en række forelæsninger om det gambiske samfund og om det altomfattende affaldsproblem med skrald over alt og de deraf afledte sundhedsfarer. De er mange og store i dette Afrikas fattigste og mindste land med 1,3 mill. indbyggere.

Aktive, seriøse og på forsiden
Deltagerne var særdeles aktive og seriøse. Nogle med megen journalistisk erfaring, andre med mindre. Men fælles for dem alle var den store interesse, de udviste, og at de afleverede hjemmeopgaverne til tiden.

Det gav synlige resultater i et par af de aviser, som nogle af kursisterne arbejder på. På tredjedagen om morgenen havde en af deltagerne hovedhistorien på forsiden af “Daily News”.

Den havde han skrevet aftenen før umiddelbart efter undervisningen i vinkling, overskrift og indledning. Den fulgte til punkt og prikke de principper vi havde brugt hele tirsdagen på. Det var kontant afregning.

I stigende grad under det to års forløb indgår også uddannelse af nogle af deltagerne til trænere, så de senere kan undervise deres kolleger. Jeg har spottet flere, der ser ud til at være velegnede.

MEN mødedisciplinen!
Præcision og overholdelse af mødetider er ikke den stærkeste disciplin i afrikanernes hverdag. Det har Games og Gambia Press Union været nødt til at tage højde for i meget detaljerede regler, som jeg ikke skal trætte med her. Der er også forskellige sanktioner, hvis deltagerne kommer for sent, ikke melder afbud eller bliver helt væk. Det har de skrevet under på i en kursuskontrakt.

Alligevel kom seks af dem op til en time eller mere for sent de første tre dage. Også efter, at et af medlemmerne af den lokale styregruppe, chefredaktør Sam Sarr, på andendagen havde forklaret dem indtrængende, hvor vigtigt det er at komme til tiden og være udhvilet og velforberedt. For denne uddannelse er deres livs chance, sagde han.

Alvorlig samtale og evt. bortvisning
Derfor måtte vi, direktøren på GPU, Ahmed Alota og jeg, på tredjedagen have de seks deltagere til en alvorlig samtale. Det hjalp noget de næste par dage, men stadig var der problemer.

Det tog den lokale styregruppe op efter kursets næstsidste dag. De var helt enige om, at hvis nogle kursister ikke kan overholde mødetiderne og regler for fravær, vil de blive bortvist. Gruppen understreger også, at der under ingen omstændigheder må slækkes på disciplinen. Tværtimod.

Store perspektiver for journalistikken
Men dette problem må ikke overskygge den ellers fine start på et meget ambitiøst uddannelsesprogram. Et program med lovende perspektiver for journalister og medier i Gambia, fordi disse 20 kursister vil være spydspidser på deres medier, de arbejder på for en bedre og mere professionel form for journalistik.

Som gode eksempler på god journalistik vil de automatisk smitte af på især deres yngre kolleger, sagde de under slutevalueringen.

Project manager on start-up mission

By Jørgen Ringgaard, Games’ new Project Manager

I celebrated my birthday by travelling to Gambia – September 29. 2009 – on my first mission as project manager in the new Games-GPU project.

We were all in Games very eager to start the project – and at the same time anxious to learn how our friends at GPU were doing after all the harassments during the summer. Was GPU as an organisation on its knees? Was it able to lift the project or were other matters of more importance in the Gambia right now?

Arrived at the airport I was received by GPU general secretary Emil Touray and two other members of the Board – all in very good mood. What a welcome. And in the taxi to the hotel I felt a very optimistic and enthusiastic atmosphere concerning GPU and the general situation.

But I also felt the serious concern and the tough experiences under the surface. I realised how difficult it is for us in Denmark really to apprehend the situation our colleagues have been and are in every day.

Great devotion
My agenda for the coming week was to start up a project, get some cornerstones in place and things on track. Looking back at the week with GPU I must give a lot of credit to the GPU Board, advisors and staff for their devotion to our agenda and their efforts to work on the project – despite all their other tasks and concerns.

Due to the statements of the Gambian President shortly before the visit, there were some concerns on the security for us visiting the Gambia. We were in contact with the Danish Foreign Ministry and advised the Danish Embassy and Consulate on our visit. But I experienced no problems at all.

A new Executive Director for GPU
The Project includes employment of a new Executive Director for GPU as a component in the institutional strengthening strategy. Announcements had been made in advance. GPU had appointed an Employment Committee to run the selection process together with us. The committee consisted of Emil and the Senior Advisors to the GPU Board, Swaebou Conateh and Sam Sarr.

We prepared a systematic to be used for the job-interviews and had 6 candidates for interviews. In full agreement the committee submitted its recommendation to the Board and Aloa Ahmed Alota was appointed as the new director.

A man of action
Alota is not the person sitting waiting for things to happen – he wants to make things happen! So, he started working the very same day the Board offered him the job.

This made it possible to speed up some of the crucial preparations for the project and gave us a chance to come to know each other.

Visiting the media houses
Parallel to the meetings with GPU Board and the job interviews, Emil and I went to visit five of the biggest media houses to sensitise them to the project and also to get a feeling of their opinions and attitude to the approach we wanted to take. It was a very useful tour.

We were confirmed in the support and the needs for the training programme – and we also met a strong support to the high ambitions we have set up.

We got very useful inputs, which played an important role in the following discussions with the GPU Board concerning key principles of the training programme.

We were also encouraged by the impression, that we can expect active support from the editors and publishers for the training programme. The visits also gave a picture of very strong backing of GPU and its work.

Planning the Project
After the decision and agreement with Alota, several meetings were held with GPU Board and advisors to clarify key issues for the training programme:
– recruitment criteria
– recruitment process
– structure of the training programme (journalism training, general knowledge etc)
– time line for the 4 semesters
– discipline of attendance/rules etc.
– budget frames

I think we all realised that it is a quite ambitious and also complicated project, we have engaged ourselves in. And that it takes a lot of work and dialogue to come from the writing of an application to a common understanding of all aspects of implementing the project.

This visit was the beginning of this process and the process has continued resulting in a successful recruitment of participants and start of the training programme.

Never money enough
Along the way it has been a challenge to fit the activity costs to the budget we have. Alota has had a hard job to make ends meet by adjusting, cutting, negotiating cheap services etc.

We have now a revised budget, just approved by Danida, which makes it possible to maintain the objectives and still keep a robust reserve. The orders for equipment and furniture for the training lab have been signed by Alota, and the installation should start soon.

A strengthened GPU
My visit left me with an experience and impression of GPU as a very committed and a very capable partner for the Project. All the developments after my visit show the same.

I think it is the new constellation of GPU Board, advisors and executive director combined with the personal commitment of all that has created this new dynamic and strength.

Our focus is naturally right now on the training programme. It seems now well on track. We should soon take up the dialogue with GPU as to how we can further support the institutional strengthening component in the Project.

New projects in the pipeline
To that end Games and GPU has jointly submitted an application to SIDA for a Project of 69.500€. The application includes 3 elements:
1. GPU in forming a self-regulatory body to raise professional standards and ethics, preserve editorial freedom and promote mutual respect between the media, the general public and the State.
2. The Editor’s Forum (a GPU affiliate) in setting-up an independent import of newsprint to increase economical sustainability, outreach to the public and more platforms for the civil society.
3. The Network of Human Rights Journalists (a GPU affiliate) in launching a 2 year action plan for cooperation between the media and civil society on legal rights and rule of law.

We are still waiting to hear if we get shortlisted to submit a full proposal.

Professional Reporter – A 2-year education in core journalism skills

By Games’ training manager Lars Møller

We call it: “Professional Reporter – A 2-year training in core journalism skills”. Because professionalism is what we want to achieve in the Gambian media. No more. No less.

The project aims to build a Forum of Excellence in order to develop the poor media of the country, to develop a mid-career training institution for journalists – and to develop peoples’ participation in the democracy and the overall development of The Gambia.

Big words for a small NGO. But true. And quite precise.
“Media for development – Development for media”
The overall title of the Danida-funded support to Gambia Press Union and the Gambian media is “Media for development – Development for media”.

The project has two parallel purposes:
1. It aims to develop the media by enhancing journalism skills and ethics amongst working journalists in the Gambia.
2. It also aims to engage the media actively in the Gambia’s own development issues.

A broad education
The education combines classroom sessions, distance learning and actual journalism production for print and radio on various development issues.
The 20 selected journalists from radio and print media will receive a broad education in:
• core reporting skills
• analytic skills
• English language skills
• IT skills
• journalism training skills.
The education is composed of four semesters over two years.

Professional reporting skills
The education does not embrace all reporting skills. But it aims to take the participants to a professional level of:
• proactive news reporting
• interviewing
• research
• spot reportage
• feature writing
• background journalism
The education applies media theory to day-to-day practice, teaching how to meet the needs of the readers and listeners and to set their agenda.

Media specialization
The venue of the training will be the GPU office, which will be equipped with a computer lab and other information and communication technologies.

The participants will specialize in either print or radio, but they will learn core skills in other media, as well:
• print media
• radio
• basic photojournalism
• basic web journalism

Training of trainers
After the education, the participants will be able to train colleagues. The aim of this journalism education is not only to build a forum of excellence, but also to build a capacity to carry out basic training of working journalists in the future.
Throughout the four semesters the participants will learn pedagogical know-how and training skills, especially during the second year of the education.
During the third and fourth semester the participants will conduct pilot-trainings of other working journalists.

Classroon education Gambia

Paid to learn
The participants are working journalists, sacrificing half their working time for the education, doing lots of assignments. Therefore they will not only earn a diploma, as a compensation they will also receive a small stipend.
A semester is 4-6 months. It typically consists of 3 journalism modules of six days each and 12 other training days throughout the semester, ending with a day for examination. The classroom training adds up to 30 working days.
In addition, the participants must allocate 14 working days for preparation, research, reporting, group work, studying, feedback and other assignments.
The first semester also includes a 5-day IT course and a 5-day English language course. The third and fourth semesters include 10 additional working days for training others in basic journalism and additional research and reporting.
The participants only get paid if they are active, punctual, attending, participating in the distance learning and doing the assignments.

The development issues
Each semester focuses on a certain development issue affecting the lives of the readers and listeners. Semester 1 focused on waste disposal, while the other semester may focus on health, education, agriculture, gender or other development issues
GPU cooperates with Gambian civil society organizations or on the selected issue. The cooperation will facilitate access to relevant sources, specialized knowledge on the issue and feedback on the drafts of the produced articles and radio inserts.
The next semesters’ focus will be decided in cooperation with the participants, the trainers and relevant civil society organizations.

The media production – a showcase for excellence
During the training the participants will produce several series of high quality stories on the chosen development issue. The stories are to be printed or aired in the respective media of the participants.

After each semester the best stories will be compiled on a cross-medial site at the GPU website – combining audio, print, photo and web – and as an insert in the GPU Newsletter.

The best stories will also be compiled as a CD-publication and offered free of charge and for further dissemination to civil society organizations working in the field. GPU will cooperate with NGO’s and local authorities on distribution of articles/programs to the ultimate, secondary target groups.

The compilation will serve as a showcase of excellent journalism. Through the training GPU aims to build a “Forum of excellence,” actively demonstrating journalism practice based on professional standards and GPU’s Code of Conduct.
To further promote excellent journalism GPU introduces an Annual Journalism Award for the best reportage of the year.

The values
The project aims to improve the media’s credibility and status in the society, playing its traditional role to inform, freely and fairly, without ill intentions or favours.

The aim is also a more citizenship-oriented and gender-conscious media force, playing an effective role as an agent for development.

As such the project will train the journalists to be professionally responsible, taking a responsibility in the development of the country, in the empowerment of the general public and marginalized groups and in the strengthening democracy, human rights and transparent governance.

The outcome of the project is neither limited to the journalism production nor to the training of trainers.

The entire project is designed to produce tangible impact on the media products in The Gambia. It is feeding a process through which professional standards and values gradually may be incorporated in the media outlets.

Funding
The project “Media for development – Development for media” is financed by the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DANIDA) and through volunteer trainers from Games (Gambia Media Support).

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How-to make a 2-year journalism education on a shoestring

By Games’ training manager Lars Møller

A full journalism education – with entrance test, a learning-by-doing curriculum and rigid course contracts with the participants. This is what Games’ volunteer trainers have designed together with our partner, Gambia Press Union.

Duration: A half-time study over 2 years
Participants: 20 working journalist, 12 men and 8 women
Price: 1 million DKK, all included

It combines the best from two schools. All the journalism trainers are former lecturers at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, and not surprisingly the design combines the best from the DSMJ’s open university for working journalists and the basic education for students.

This is how we did it:

Set clear objectives
The starting point is setting the objectives. Based on input from GPU and on our previous experiences in The Gambia and other developing countries we have adapted the design to address the needs in The Gambia.

Entrancetest

We aim to educate 20 reporters in research, analysis and reporting, for radio, online and print. In four semesters over two years they will learn “News reporting”, “Spot reporting and case stories”, “Background reporting” and “Feature journalism”. And all along they will learn the basic skills on how to train other reporters.

This is quite ambitious, and we may settle for less. But only in quantity, not in quality. The education aims to bring the participants to the level of the international professional standards and the GPU’s Code of Conduct and — in time – form a Forum of Excellence.

Make the selection transparent
In November I was in The Gambia to assist GPU in the selection and to kick-start the training.

It was a successful mission. Together with the editors we developed selection criteria and we set up an independent selection committee.

As GPU board members were also amongst the applicants none from the board participated in neither developing the entrance test nor defining the selection criteria, let alone in the selection itself.

No editors were part of the Selection Committee, as many of their reporters were amongst the applicants.

The importance of transparency was proved already when an editor complained that none of his reporters were selected. We could refer to the procedures that he himself participated in the formulation of.

Select participants who can angle
The selection process includes three stages:
1. First they had to file an application demanding an outstanding motivation.  48 did. Most of the 48 were highly motivated and all but three qualified.
2. Then they had to pass an entrance test – testing knowledge, reporting skills and analytical skills. All but two did.
3. Finally the 30 best were called for an interview to convince the Selection Committee that they should be amongst the chosen twenty. Almost all of them did.

The entrance test included a multiple-choice test in general knowledge with 20 questions, a test of English writing skills and reporting skills (angling and structuring a story) and finally a test of analytical skills (listing alternative sources, questions and angles to the story).

The aim of the interview was to assess the applicants’ commitment, personal merits and ability to attend fully and be on time.

The Selection Committee rated the applicants according to their application, the results of the entrance test and the interview.

Finally, with consideration to a fair gender and media distribution, we selected the 20 best.

Make an extra effort for a fair representation
Only few women had applied before the deadline. However, the board of GPU decided to extend the deadline and make a personal announcement to all female journalist in their network.

8 of the 20 elected participants are women.

The selected participants represent reporters and editors from most of The Gambia’s print media. However, to secure competences from other media a special consideration was given to a broad media distribution.

Apart from print reporters and editors the selected included:

  • 2 radio journalists + another 6 with radio experience
  • 2 photo journalists
  • 2 on-line journalists

Course contract the participants
A keystone for success is to base the participation on a mutual accepted course contract specifying the terms: What will GPU and Games provide and what will the participants provide?

The course contract hold the participants responsible for own learning – providing that we provide the infrastructure, the teachers and the references.

Particularly in Africa – and many other poor, developing countries – it is a special challenge to make people attend fully and to be on time.

It is not only a question of sunny cultures. The journalists face many material obstacles, such as editors demanding their presence, such as poor economy forcing them to run for any possible earning, and such as logistics making it difficult to foresee  transportation time.

Make the employers support the training
To make the training effective the project pays the participants enough so they can afford to produce less for their media. However, we also need the editors’ cooperation and support.

GPU made an agreement with the employers in which they acknowledge that they will support the participants’ participation in training – as well as the home study and assignments – by not giving them assignments preventing them from such participation.

They also acknowledge that they will publish the articles or radio programs produced by the participants from their medium. This will support the earning of the participants.

And even more importantly, it will make a show case of good journalism.

Keep discipline and classroom management
The course contract also describes the learning environment and set standards for classroom management. It deals with everything from noise and mobile phones to politeness and tolerance.

It also stipulates the rules of attendance. An effective training will inevitably challenge the culture of lateness.

So far we have only agreed on the rules. We have yet to see how it works out. It is still a learning process; we want them to learn to be punctual.

GPU has set up a disciplinary committee of editors, who will call participants for interview, if they are late or not attending. The disciplinary committee may also issue warnings and fines – and may eventually evict a participant still failing to learn.

Don’t compromise on professionalism
We made a thorough selection. But even so, a participant unable or unwilling to learn-by-participation may have slipped in.

We hope all of them will attend, be on time and pass examines of the coming four semesters. If not, they are out. Because we will not compromise on their professionalism.

We prefer to spot the participant as soon as possible rather than being lean on our pedagogical demands. Several qualified applicants are ready to take their place.

We started with 20 journalists, well aware that not all will fulfil the training. If 16 of the 20 for the next two years manage to meet the requirements and pass the exams, we will consider it a success.

And if half of them prove to be good journalism trainers, able and ready to train other journalists, it is well done.

Facilitate a learning environment
The project also prescribes the set up of a training hall with a computer lab for 20 participants.

However, the practical preparations have been pending until now, because Games and GPU could not find ways to solve two main problems:

The budget for training lab is not sufficient. The training hall is too small for the lab.

GPU has now settled for 15 computers in the hall – supplemented with 5 old computers in the library, donated by UNDP. As we write this, carpenters are now building computer desks in the training hall, while the computer supplier is installing software, so it will be ready for next module of the training.

And then: Move, move, adapt, adapt…

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Three rules for training journalism in developing countries

By Games’ training manager Lars Møller

Games’ trainers have found three rules for a successful journalism training – after years of training in Africa, in The Balkans, in East Europe, in Asia and in the Middle East.

All over we have experienced the same:
• poor recruitment of participants undermines our efforts to teach journalism
• poor analytical skills hamper the participants’ efforts to do proactive research
• poor language skills make otherwise good reporting incomprehensible.

From these experiences we have drawn three rules for designing journalism training in developing countries.

Rule no. 1: Start with the right participants
First of all the selection of the participants has to be quite thorough. This is Rule Number 1 in training of trainers:

Make sure you start with the right participants. It sounds obvious, but too many times the experienced trainers of Games have tried to start a long-term training with a short-minded recruitment process.

What we need is participants, who are motivated by the learning objectives of the project, who have sufficient time to invest, and who are capable of working as reporters and possible trainers.

Entrancetest

This time we developed all stages of project together with our partner, Gambia Press Union, and the criteria for the selection was in our hands – and we made a thorough entrance test followed by personal interview. It seems to work.

Rule no. 2: To teach analysis is the foundation
We have taught journalists from all kind of cultures to take the role of a proactive and critical reporter. With some success, because they do want to be proactive, and they do understand the need for questioning the sources.

But often Games’ trainers have experienced that the participants fail to transform these ideas into solid reporting, merely because they lack the attitude and skills of analyzing problems.

This has often to do with poor education, but just as often it is rooted in the culture, in hierarchy structures and in oppression.

To analyze a problem is to question authorities, pointing at other solutions – and in some cultures it is not rewarded. On the contrary, it is dangerous business.

But the result is the same: Poor analysis makes poor reporting.

To perform journalism one needs analytical skills at all stages: To conduct a research; to conduct an interview with follow-up questions; to assess findings and to draw up the appropriate angles – let alone to balance news values with other editorial values such as ethics and conflict sensitive reporting values.

In The Gambia we designed the journalism education specifically aiming at providing the participants both general knowledge on society and analytic training.

Rule no. 3: Address poor language skills
A third rule in journalism training of trainers is to teach the participants language skills.

Too often reports fail to make sense because of incomprehensive language. Reporters need to learn grammar and syntax before they can grasp the idea of the effective language (what we call journalistic language). And to become good writers they need to expand their vocabulary along with general knowledge.

This is not only our experiences when teaching journalism in Arabic, Mongolian, Khmer, Nepali or Bengali. It is also what the Gambian editors told us: The Gambian reporters need basic knowledge and basic language skills.

So we teach them.

The Triple Training Path
The journalism education follows a triple path, teaching journalism and media specialization along with general knowledge and analytical skills and with English language skills.

GPU and Games engage professors from the university to teach the participants all kinds of general knowledge. We engage civil society organisations to teach them about real life problems. We engage linguists and editors to teach them proper English – from grammar to poetry.

One of the English teachers is the new director and training manager of GPU, Ahmed Alota. As a journalist and former English teacher he is capable of guiding the language teaching in the direction of effective writing.

The journalism trainers from Games will teach analytical skills along with journalism and media specialization.

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Gambia Press Union stærkere end nogensinde

Af Flemming Seiersen, frivillig og lærer på mission i Gambia.

Gambia Press Union (GPU) står nu stærkere end nogensinde efter fængslingen og løsladelsen af seks fagforeningsmedlemmer i efteråret 2009. GPU har aldrig før oplevet så stor interesse og opmærksomhed som nu fra journalister, organisationer og almindelige mennesker i og uden for Gambia. Medlemstallet er steget fra knap 200 til 250 – ud af Gambias omkring 400 journalister.

The Gambia Press Union Board

Styrket organisation
Samtidig er selve organisationen i GPU styrket væsentligt.
Først med valget af en ny, kvindelig præsident for fagforeningen, Nedy Tapha Sosseh, der i øjeblikket arbejder for West African Journalist Association.
Senest med GPUs nye direktør og projektkoordinator Ahmed Alota, der er ansat som et led i det projekt, som Games og GPU kører sammen.
Og det kan allerede nu klart mærkes, at GPU er styrket administrativt og organisatorisk. Da jeg var der i 2007, var der mildt sagt ikke styr på noget. Det er der nu.

Bedre lokaler og nyt udstyr
GPU er flyttet til nye og bedre lokaler i den vestlige del hovedstadsområdet, i Bakau New Town, tæt på nyhedsmediernes redaktioner.
Tidligere holdt GPU til midt inde i det stærkt trafikerede, støjende og støvede Serekunda, hvor det var næsten umuligt at komme frem.
I de nye lokaler i Newtown er der to kontorer og et bibliotek foruden et fint møde- og undervisningslokale, reception, køkken og rimeligt gode og rene toiletter.

Statsmediernes journalister tør ikke
Som nævnt bakker flertallet af journalisterne i Gambia op om GPU. Fagforeningens hovedformål er at skabe bedre arbejds- og levevilkår for medlemmerne og ikke mindst den stadige kamp for den truede pressefrihed.
En stor gruppe af journalister er dog ikke medlemmer. Det er de ansatte ved statsradioen og fjernsynet og mange medarbejdere på den regeringsvenlige avis, “The Observer”.
De tør simpelthen ikke, fordi GPU af dem og andre regeringsvenlige organisationer og personer betragtes som værende i opposition til styret og ikke mindst præsidenten. Hvis de melder sig ind, vil de straks blive sat under observation og risikerer at miste deres job.

Fængslet for at bringe et svar fra GPU
Indledningsvis fortalte jeg, at GPU aldrig har været stærkere end siden løsladelsen af de seks journalister og redaktører. De blev fængslet i juli sidste år.
Deres brøde var ifølge anklagemyndigheden (læs præsidenten), at de havde bragt et svar fra GPU på kritiske udtalelser fra den i praksis enerådende præsident, The Gambian leader, His Exellency Sheikh, Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh (sådan omtales han altid i den regeringsvenlige avis, “The Observer” – måske med en tilføjelse som Gambias visionære leder el. l.).

Mord på redaktør uopklaret
Præsidentens kritiske udtalelser gjaldt legenden i den gambiske medieverden, Deyda Hydara. Han var præsident for GPU og som redaktør af den uafhængige avis “The Point” kritisk over for styret.
Han blev skudt ned uden for sit hjem for godt fem år siden, efter han flere gange havde sagt, at det kunne han risikere. Mordet er stadig uopklaret.
GPU har gang på gang opfordret både præsidenten og politiet til en grundig efterforskning, men hidtil uden resultat. Som svar sagde landets præsident, at Deyda Hydara måske var blevet myrdet, fordi han vist havde en elskerinde.

To års fængsel og 110.000 kr. i bøde
GPU svarede igen og krævede endnu en gang mordet opklaret – hvilket flere skrev om. myndighederne reagerede ved at arrestere tre bestyrelsesmedlemmer af GPU og tre redaktører, fordi de havde fornærmet præsidenten ved at gengive fagforeningens svar.
Først var de arresteret i tre dage i Gambias værste fængsel. Derefter kom de for en dommer og blev fængslet i 14 dage. Derefter blev de løsladt, indtil den egentlige retssag startede mod dem i landsretten.
Dommen lød på to års fængsel og en bøde på 20.000 dollars svarende til 110.000 kr. Et astronomisk beløb i Gambia, hvor den lovfæstede mindsteløn er på 750 kr. om måneden.
Kunne de ikke betale de 110.000 kr., skulle de sidde yderligere to år bag tremmer.

Flyttet til det bedste fængsel
De seks pressefolk blev hurtigt flyttet fra det værste til det bedste fængsel i udkanten af hovedstaden. Her blev de behandlet godt af fangevogterne, fordi de vidste, at det var et spørgsmål om tid, inden journalisterne ville blive løsladt.
Myndighederne flyttede dem, fordi de ikke ønskede, at journalister fik for nøje kendskab til de dårlige forhold, almindelige fanger udsættes for, så de kunne skrive kritisk om det, når de kom ud.
I de værste af fængslerne er det ikke ualmindeligt, at fanger dør af underernæring. Det er heller ikke ualmindeligt at finde lig af fanger uden for fængslets mure, fortæller en nabo til et af fængslerne mig.

Internationalt pres på præsidenten
Men de hårde domme rejste en voldsom international kritik fra en række lande mod Gambia, blandt andet tog EU sagen op efter pres fra Games og Danmark.
Men kritikken lød også i Afrika. Det kom helt klart bag på præsidenten her. Især præsident Jacob Zuma fra Sydafrika skal have lagt et stort pres på Gambias leder og ringet til ham flere gange for at få ham til at løslade de seks journalister og redaktører.
USA’s udenrigsminister, Hillary Clinton, tog også sagen op under sit besøg i Afrika i efteråret 2009. Efter sigende ville hun sende en højtstående amerikanske embedsmand til Gambia for at mødes med præsident Jammeh.
Dagen før embedsmandens afrejse blev de seks kolleger løsladt.

Dommen er der stadig, så hvad nu?
Gambias præsident udstedte en amnesti – officielt i anledning af ramadanen. Da havde de seks været i fængsel i i alt 40 dage.
Men dommene på de to års fængsel og 110.000 kr. i bøde til hver står stadig ved magt. Den kan dermed danne præcedens for lignende sager, frygtes det.
På den anden side har præsidenten lidt et nederlag og vil tænke sig om en gang eller to, inden myndighederne gentager succesen, med den internationale, negative opmærksomhed, sagen har rettet mod Gambia.
Men vil hans Exllency, Sheik, Professor Alhaji, Dr. Yahya Jammeh lade sagen gå i glemmebogen, eller hvad kan medierne vente i fremtiden?
Præsidenten har efter løsladelsen bl.a. sagt, at personer, der vil undergrave og skade Gambia – f.eks. menneskerettighedsforkæmpere – gider han ikke at stille for retten. Dem vil han bare slå ihjel.