Building Media Development and Journalism Education in Africa
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Bedfordshire
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Political Science
Law and Legal Studies: Law
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Journalism and Professional Writing
Summary of the impact
The impact outlined here derives from research done by Professors Ivor
Gaber and Jon Silverman in the related fields of political reporting,
justice and democratic accountability through freedom of expression. This
work, conducted under the aegis of the Centre for International Media
Analysis, Research and Consultancy (CIMARC) at the University of
Bedfordshire (UoB), has influenced both the policy environment and
professional practice. For example, (in Gaber's case) improving the news
coverage of elections in Nigeria, Malawi and Uganda; and (in Silverman's)
working towards post-conflict reconciliation in Liberia and Sierra Leone,
through an analysis of the media's reporting of war crimes trials.
Ivor Gaber, Professor of Media and Political Communication, commenced
01/09/2006 Jon Silverman, Professor of Media and Criminal Justice,
Silverman's research dates from 2007, with a field trip to Sierra Leone
to examine the media and post-conflict justice ahead of the trial of the
former `warlord' Charles Taylor in The Hague. This was followed, in
October 2007, with ethnographic work in the Central African Republic at
the request of the prosecutor's office at the International Criminal
Court. Silverman's acknowledged expertise in this area led to the award,
in July 2010, of a three-year, £25,100 grant by the British Academy, under
its Africa Partnership programme, which has as a principal aim the
establishing of links between UK and African institutions and
intra-regional links within Africa. Silverman has supervised a PhD student
based in Sierra Leone, whose thesis is a qualitative examination of the
response of civil society in Sierra Leone to media coverage of two war
crimes trials — including the trial of Charles Taylor in The Hague.
Silverman's research on media content and ethnographic fieldwork in the
four regions of Sierra Leone helped to build bridges between civil society
groupings, lawyers, academics and activists, using the war crimes
reporting as a focus. The research shows that strengthening the lateral
links between media and civil society can be an effective antidote to the
arbitrary imposition of power by African `big men' which has, so often,
institutionalised weak and corrupt governance and led to violence and the
breakdown of order.
Gaber's underpinning research relates to his prolific output
investigating relations between journalists and politicians and, in
particular, his analysis of how the media has been reporting election
coverage in a mature democracy (UK) which he has then been able to apply
to countries in Africa that are transitioning to democracy. He has also
investigated issues regarding fair reporting of conflict and post-conflict
situations in other regions (e.g. Israel-Palestine). In his 2007 book,
particularly Chapter 11, Gaber applied his research findings about
election coverage in the UK to Africa. In a publication targeted at
African reporters he outlined his research findings and demonstrated its
relevance, and application, to reporting politics and elections in an
African context. This set out the key role the media should play in a
democracy, enabling citizens to make informed judgments, seeking to
represent and crystallise public opinion to the politicians, giving
politicians a space to respond to public concerns and to set out their own
policies and providing a `public sphere' for debate.
In his 2006 research, which analysed the previous year's General Election
in the UK, he demonstrated how the issue agendas of the media, the public
and the politicians diverged, and also demonstrated how the Labour Party — the eventual winners — whilst differing most radically from the agendas
being pursued by the media, was closest to that of the public's. Not only
did this research bring him to the attention of those organisations
involved in promoting democracy in Africa but also provided him with the
contextual basis to enable him to undertake the various initiatives with
which he was subsequently involved.
References to the research
3.1 Silverman J. (2012) `Taylor Verdict: Implications for International
Justice' cited (p.40) in 9th Annual Report of the President
of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
3.2 Silverman J. (2013) `Strengthening the links between media and
civil society'. Paper delivered at a two-day seminar in Monrovia, Liberia,
April 10/11, 2012 + one-day seminar in Freetown, Sierra Leone, March 13,
3.3 Silverman J. (with Cole B.) (2013) `The media's reporting of war
crimes trials and its impact on post-conflict democracy in Sierra Leone
and Liberia'. Journal of African Media Studies, Vol. 5 (1).
3.4 Gaber I. (with Seymour E. & Thomas L.) (2009) `Is the BBC biased?
The Corporation and the Coverage of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah War' Journalism
Theory, Practice & Criticism Vol. 10, No 2, 2009.
3.5 Gaber I. (2007) Live from Africa: a handbook for African Radio
Journalists, produced for and published by the Institute for War and
Peace Reporting, London.
3.6 Gaber I. (2006) Dislocated and Distracted': Media, Parties and the
Voters in the 2005 General Election Campaign British Politics 2006
Vol. 1 No 3.
Details of the impact
Silverman's research and expertise in the media and international justice
underpinned a unique training programme, developed by the BBC World
Service Trust (now re-named BBC Media Action) and the international N.G.O. — Search for Common Ground — to bring daily radio coverage of the war
crimes trial of Charles Taylor in The Hague to audiences in Sierra Leone
and Liberia. The programme ran from 2007-10, with Silverman as
consultant/mentor. Silverman's contribution was acknowledged in media
coverage of the trial (e.g. report on the BBC World website on August 12,
2010 — www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-10930834?print=true).
The research in Sierra Leone and Liberia led to seminars in both
countries in 2012 and 2013, attended by leading representatives of civil
society. Arising from the Monrovia (Liberia) event in April 2012 a virtual
policy forum was established — uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/medialegitimacy/-offering
a space for the sharing of ideas/research/ initiatives on fostering
democratic legitimacy in a post-conflict setting. The event in Freetown
(Sierra Leone) in March 2013 was attended by the Chair of the
Anti-Corruption Commission, as well as by the President of the Sierra
Leone Association of Journalists. A 63-page report of the proceedings — "The Impact of the Special Court Trials on the People of Sierra Leone and
Liberia" — was published and circulated widely in political, NGO and
academic circles in Sierra Leone.
The research in Sierra Leone and Liberia and the subsequent fostering of
institutional relationships has led to an initiative — CIMARC Scholars — in which early career academics from Anglophone West Africa, with an
interest in media, human rights and governance, will spend short periods
at UoB participating in the academic life of the university, thus
fulfilling a primary goal of the British Academy's Africa Partnership
Prof. Gaber's professional and academic reputation has been the
foundation for election training programmes and reporting projects in
Tunisia, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi and Burkina Faso. The Ugandan
project — the Ugandan Radio Network (URN) — is, at the time of
writing still ongoing. It initially entailed training 202 correspondents
in election reporting techniques, the production of radio packages,
(including simple editing) and how to transmit these packages to a central
newsroom in Kampala, where the reports were then distributed to FM radio
stations throughout Uganda. In a country, still in post-conflict recovery
from the LRA insurgency (The North of Uganda was convulsed by an uprising
by a group calling itself the Lord's Resistance Army which from 1986 until
relatively recently created terror and chaos throughout the region.) URN
has played a crucial role in promoting independent reporting, freedom of
expression and democratic elections, in both providing news that was seen
to be reliable and independent and empowering (and funding) Ugandan
journalists to undertake robust, accurate and unbiased political
reportage. Gaber's role in planning the project prior to launch, and then
organising and undertaking the national training programme prior to its
launch, can be attested to by the NGO that employed him.
The Nigerian project — funded by the UK and US governments — was based
around establishing and running the Nigerian Election News Report
(NENR) of which Gaber was the designer and first editor. During the 2011
general elections a nationwide team of journalists, who had earlier been
trained by Gaber, emailed news stories to the NENR headquarters in Lagos.
These were edited, voiced and uploaded to an open-access website for
downloading by any Nigerian website, newspaper, radio or TV station. What
was particularly innovative was that the packages were also delivered via
a mobile phone direct-dial system to over 1500 Nigerian journalists. The
mobile phone material could either be put to air by journalists working in
remote areas who had poor internet access, or be transmitted as alert
mechanisms that directed journalists to the NENR website. In this way,
journalists were being given unprecedented access to breaking election
news stories that were uncensored, accurate and timely.
The workshops — involving more than 100 Nigerian journalists — and the
NENR service had a significant impact. Over the life of the project the
NENR website received 34,229 hits (from launch in March to end on 16th
June 2011). Kemi Aduroja, political reporter for the TV news channel NN24
TV in Lagos said: "This service (NENR) equipped journalists and made them
to be more active and more effective in reporting electioneering stories
which will eventually enhance non-partisan politics in Nigeria's
democracy" and the President of the Nigeria Guild of Editors, Gbenga
Adefaye said that NENR "would bring about professionalism in journalistic
style and reporting". A full report of the project, Nigerian Election
Support Programme, (International Press Centre, Lagos www.ipcng.org)
was distributed widely at the conclusion of the project and a paper
outlining the project and its impact was delivered at the 2012 conference
of the UK's African Studies Association.
He is currently (2013 and 2014) working on a major project in the run-up
to elections in Malawi in May 2014. This involves training and mentoring
25 reporters with the aim of increasing the amount and quality of
issue-based reporting in the Malawian media. He is also undertaking a
national media monitoring project covering the eight weeks of the election
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 Chair, Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone.
5.2 Director of Policy and Learning, BBC Media Action.
5.3 Head of Outreach Section, Special Court for Sierra Leone.
5.4 Director, International Press Centre, Lagos Nigeria.
5.5 International Partnerships Manager, Institute for War and
Peace Reporting, Washington DC.
5.6 Report on the Nigerian Election Support Programme (July 2001)
L. Arogundade, I. Gaber & V. Oakeshott, IWPR & IPC, c/o, House 11,
Dideolu Court, Dideolu Estate, Ogba, Lagos, Nigeria.
5.7 The Impact of the Special Court Trials on the People of Sierra
Leone and Liberia (report of seminar organised by the Mass
Communications Department, University of Sierra Leone and CIMARC
(University of Bedfordshire, UK) hard copy only.
5.8 Uganda Radio Network's website which Professor Gaber helped