Tuesday, 8 December 2015

VIKES Joint Trip to Nigeria 2015

The Finnish Foundation for Media and Development (VIKES) took a group of journalists from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia to Nigeria to introduce them to development issues. Prior to the trip the journalists participated in a training on development issues in Helsinki. Cooperation with the local and experienced journalists made the trip unique.

The journalist worked together with Nigerian colleagues and experts.
Photo Tiit Blaat (Eesti Päevaleht)

Eye-Opening Journey

Six journalists from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia got the chance to take part in the week-long journey to Nigeria in October 2015. During the first joint study trip organized by VIKES, the journalists spent three days getting to know the environmental problems in Ogoniland and the Niger Delta region. 

Fishing boat near the badly contaminated waters of Goi.
Photo: Tiit Blaat (Eesti Päevaleht)

The day trips took them to the areas that have suffered the most from oil spills and waste discharge since the oil production in the area begun in 1950s. The group visited areas like Bodo, Goi and Ken Saro-Wiwa’s home village Bene together with Nigerian environmental journalists and local environment organization Environment Rights Action. 

The trips taught the journalists that global development issues concern us all. Also, the environmental problems concerning the Ogoni people are not just ”development issues”, they are political questions as well, as one of the participants wrote in his feedback:

”Seeing the effects the pollution has on local communities (and hearing about other, less-visible consequences from experts) was very important for me to actually understand the scope of the problem. I would not say that the situation in Niger Delta is strictly a 'development' issue, however, at least not separated from the politics aspect.”

The journalists also did some more urban stories in the torrential rain of Port Harcourt and spent the last few days in the capital Abuja where they had meetings with national officials and civil society expert Jaye Gaskiya. In Abuja, the group also did individual interviews about Boko Haram and the effects of its recent attacks to the Nigerian society. According to the report by the Australian Economics and Peace Institute,  6 644 civilians were killed in the Boko Harami attacks just in 2014. In Abuja, the journalists, for example, saw the former office building of the ThisDay daily newspaper destroyed in attack by Boko Haram.

A Lesson from Journalists to Journalists

The feedback given by the participants after the trip was very positive. All of the respondents thought that the study trip either was a great success or exceeded their expectations, giving the trip an overall score of 4.6/5.0.

Journalist colleagues Rosita Garskaite, Blessing Ibunge and Riin Aljas.
Photo: Tiit Blaat (Eesti Päevaleht)

The journalists were especially happy about the cooperation with their Nigerian colleagues. The journalists were not taken from one office to another, but they got to do their daily work together with their colleagues. Also, every journalist that participated in the trip would recommend a similar study trip to their a friend or a colleagues. 

The training that VIKES organized in Finland also had very positive effects, since both the local partners and journalists as well as VIKES Nigeria Coordinator Peik Johansson stated that the group had done their homework well.

VIKES and its partners also left the participants a significant amount of time to develop their own ideas and go after their own stories. The cooperation with the local journalists broadened everyone’s perspectives and world views.

A deeper understanding on development issues requires creative methods and real encounters between people. Through the VIKES contacts in developing countries, the journalists can also have chance to work together, share ideas, and understand better the role of media in development. 

Important themes from poverty eradication to climate change can interest people if they are presented through a real and convincing story and encounter. Even complicated global issues need to have a face. The world’s most vulnerable and poorest need to get their voices heard.

The group had time to visit the local markets and follow the daily life in Nigeria.
Photo: Tiit Blaat (Eesti Päevaleht)

We need alternative and multi-voiced sources of information all over the world. Media has a great impact in what we think about the world, and what we think are our most urgent problems. The gap between our world views and the reality becomes even bigger because of the limited resources reserved for foreign news reporting. Campaigns and aid organizations also tend to paint a grim picture of the developing world because they need to collect funds to solve problems and make situations better.

The Media4Development project aims to tackle some of these issues by giving the journalists practical tools, by demolishing stereotypes, and by offering more information about global interdependencies. 

The participants also learned a lot about journalists’ work in Nigeria. The Nigerian environment journalist often work in difficult situations and need to have great determination and attitude towards their work. Being a journalists writing about environmental problems and political issues in Nigeria is not easy, or well-paid, but because of the support and trainings by VIKES the amount of articles on environmental issues have increased. The journalists reporting on environmental issues have gotten to know each other, developed professionally and started a national organization. As a result of this, the local communities suffering from the effects of environmental problems have gotten their voices heard in the media.

Journalists to Communicate about the Sustainable Development Goals!

During the joint study trip to Nigeria, the journalists from the Baltic countries, Slovakia and Czech Republic understood that global issues from poverty to climate change also concern them. As one of the participants writes in her feedback:

”Before the trip I did not know almost anything about oil production or environmental problems in Niger Delta region or any other problems in the region in relation with the oil production. I will very likely work on similar topics (issues regarding environment, poverty, inequality, democracy and climate change) also in the future.”

All the participants thought that the study trip increased their understanding on development issues. The example of our project shows that cooperation between journalists from different countries increases the debate on global development issues in the media. 

The national implementation of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals is important, but the communication on the goals should focus on broadening people’s perspectives about development and the world. Communications on the Agenda2030 should give people a worldwide perspective on development issues. Supporting journalists and media in Europe and in developing countries promotes successful communication on the Global Goals.

See more photos from the joint study trip: here.

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