Media professionals trained in investigative healthcare techniques

Media professionals trained in investigative healthcare techniques

02 novembre, 2023

AfricTivistes aims to “redefine good information as a pillar of a strong health system” through the pilot phase of the Health Lab project. The training workshop, held from October 9th to 13th, provided health media professionals from Senegal and the sub-region with techniques in health investigation.

The five-day training workshop on health-sector online investigative journalism was held in Dakar. The purpose of Africa Media Lab is to train and build the capacity of media professionals and bloggers specialising in health in Africa. “We have four nationalities in the room (Senegal, Republic of Guinea, Mauritania, Togo and Benin); at the end, the project will expand to a dozen countries in Africa”, said Pape Ismaïla, head of communications and advocacy at AfricTivistes and trainer for the workshop.

This programme, launched by AfricTivistes and supported by Seek Initiative, has chosen Senegal to host its pilot phase, which includes face-to-face training, one-month post-training mentoring and the production of value-added content by trainees.

For Aïsha Dabo, Programme Coordinator of AfricTivistes, it is a reaction to the need to fill a gap in data verification in Africa, to make the work of journalists, bloggers and other media professionals much easier. “This project is part of the wider Africa Media Lab programme, which includes a number of projects designed to equip media professionals to conduct investigations more effectively while at the same time verifying information”, she said, in the presence of Janine Schall-Emden, representative of the Seek initiative.

She added that the long-term objective is to train 400 people in 12 African countries in a rigorous approach to health investigation based on the principles of ethics, inclusion and community safety.

This pilot stage will serve as a laboratory for the successful roll-out of the project in other countries in the near future. “This activity will enable us to perfect the project in order to achieve our goals”, she declared.

Pape Ismaïla Dieng agreed: “This workshop will help us to assess the need and improve the content so that it can be rolled out in other countries.”

The first cohort includes sixteen media professionals specialising in health, mainly from Senegal but also from the sub-region, who were coached in online investigative journalism.

“An interactive workshop that enabled us to deepen our skills and knowledge…”

The first day of training focused on the process of an investigative report. For trainer Pape Ismaïla Dieng, the aim was to initiate a process of community investigation, starting with the definition of the concept of “community investigation”, and then choosing the topic of a community investigation to be carried out. “The group worked hard to find a cross-cutting investigation topic for the five countries represented. They then organised it according to angle and impact before the documentation stage”, he explained.

On the second day, research-documentation was on the agenda for the workshop’s discussions and work. “Research-documentation is central to the whole process of investigative work in a community investigation. It is even its foundation, since investigation involves going out to find information and then verifying it through in-depth research”, said Mr Dieng. “Research-documentation occupies an important place in the process; it enables us to refine the subject and explore it”, he insisted.

Later in the day, participants were trained in advanced search techniques on search engines and social networks, the specific features of search engines, and data verification tools of all kinds (images, geolocation, monitoring, comparison, etc.).

The third and fourth days focused on the identification, mapping and classification of stakeholders in an investigation. As well as the right approaches for creating links between stakeholders and classifying them according to their qualities. The following points were also addressed:

  1. Importance of establishing contact with resource persons
  2. Adopting an effective approach to resource person
  3. Techniques for getting public information
  4. Challenges and threats relating to the legal framework in the country of investigation
  5. Implementing a personal data security policy

Finally, on the fifth day, which was dedicated in particular to preparing for the mentoring phase, the beneficiaries presented their investigation topics to work on with the help of their media organisations.

These investigations will be carried out under the mentorship of the project’s trainers. “Following the training, there will be follow-up mentorship. The participants will choose investigative subjects on which they will work next month. We’ll be on hand to guide them”, said Papa Ismaïla Dieng, confiding that the aim is to have surveys published by implementing what they have learned during the training. “These investigations will enable us to prove that this project is both sustainable and suitable for deployment in other countries.”

For their part, the beneficiaries greatly welcomed this initiative, which is helping them to develop new skills that will enable them to practise their profession more effectively.

“With the training I have received, I now know how to conduct an investigation using the Health Lab approach. I plan to work on a topic to apply this knowledge and new techniques to contribute to the development of the population”, said Viviane Marie Joseph Diatta, a Senegalese journalist who benefited from the programme.

Tounkara Thierno Oumar from ESPACE FM in Guinea added: “During these five days of training, we have learnt new things about investigative journalism. I was given the tools and means to find information and make it available to the general public. With these tools and the support of AFRICTIVISTES, I’ll be able to cover a number of subjects in the field of health in my country, so that I can reduce the public health problems facing the community and improve the conditions in which people are cared for”.

According to Papa Youssouf Mboup, a freelance videographer from Senegal, the training course “was a good experience”. “I was impressed by the quality of the course. It was an interactive course that enabled us to deepen our skills while raising our awareness of the health issues specific to our continent. What impressed me most was the opportunity to exchange views with other health journalists from different African countries. The discussions and debates we had enabled us to share our experiences and perspectives, and create lasting links between us”, he explained.

Gnim Zabdiel Mignake from Santé-Education in Togo, intends to build on the training he received upon his return. “As expected, this training enabled me to discover other ways of gathering data in order to build an investigation file, in particular crowdsourcing and advanced online research. The added value I’m leaving with is the technological toolkit for processing, verifying and visualising data, which will enable me not only to make the information more digestible for readers but also to establish links between facts in order to generate more insight. All this knowledge will be shared with colleagues upon my return through exchange sessions or short webinars”.

The pilot phase of AfricTivistes Health Lab ended with the certification presentation ceremony.

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