CSOs and media train to report land governance effectively

Wednesday, 4th July 2018

Media and civil society partnership is key to improving land governance in Africa

It is no news that civil society and the media need each other to promote people focused land governance in Africa. As both share common values, the mainstream thinking is that collaboration is automatic. But that is not always the case. Journalists consider their work is not advocacy and civil society organisations (CSOs) say they are not media watchdogs and gatekeepers. So how can we close this gap?

To tackle that, the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), member of the International Land Coalition (ILC) in Africa and Nairobi based ILC Africa Regional Coordination Unit organised a workshop on June 20-22 in Kampala-Uganda for African journalists and CSOs. The workshop, aimed at encouraging reporting on land discussed how to lead land related data-driven and knowledge-based investigations and informed advocacy.

At the workshop, 14 participants from 11 countries across Africa discussed strategies and perspectives to effectively investigate and report land rights in Africa with land experts. Participants came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Liberia Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Working with the media

Rachel M. Land rights reporting workshop Uganda/ILC Africa/Israel BionyiMs Rachel Mugarura, Programme Manager Online & Training at ACME and lead facilitator for the event welcomed the guests and asked about challenges in their work. Voices raised issues around gender biased narrative, low professional standards, limited access to quality sources, limited resources, low quality of media education, lack of cross boarder perspectives and limited collaboration between CSOs and the press.

To shape understanding on land governance in Africa, participants began day one debating land rights, land grabbing, foreign direct investments, legal frameworks for land tenure and investigative journalism. In a parallel session, journalists shared investigation techniques, while CSOs discussed how to create and maintain working relations with the media.

“During the CSO session, I learnt more about how best to approach media and different ways to present information to different audiences through the media,” says Ms Nadya Randrianandrasana, Communications Officer for the Solidarité des Intervenants sur le Foncier (SIF), an ILC Africa member in Madagascar.

Reporting gender and land rights

Rita Aciro Land rights reporting workshop Uganda/ILC Africa/Israel BionyiDay two focused on reporting land rights, gender and tenure systems. Ms Rita Aciro, Executive Director at Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) shared specialised knowledge with participants on women’s land rights. According to Ms Aciro, debates around women land rights on the media have been overly simplistic and biased. She says the media must provide gender sensitive depiction of complex issues, clearly showing how land issues affect gender.

“There is lack of creativity and analysis by the media to counter our patriarchal societies. Writing needs to tell deeper stories. Media has the responsibility to educate our people. Many journalists are caught between writing a story of the disadvantaged but have no factual or legal backing for the story.”

For participating journalists, mainstream narratives sometimes corrupt media reporting-a trap they must avoid. “Media feeds into social bias and analysis becomes superficial. As a journalist, you don’t want to find yourself against the dominant social beliefs.  We can do better by challenging and questioning traditions without fear,” says Mr Suzgo Chitete, participant journalist from Malawi.

Communal land vs. individual tenure

Another expert, Ms Judy Adoko, the Executive Director of the Land and Equity Movement (LEMU), another ILC member in Uganda, provoked thinking and debates on land tenure systems when she introduced the land tenure topic. In her discourse, she dismissed the mainstream narrative that private tenure is good for vulnerable communities. For her, people’s rights are better protected under customary tenure systems. She challenges the media to educate communities about the dangers of individual titles, which exclude family landowners and makes it easier for investors to acquire land.

For CSO participant, Mr Segnane Serign, Programme Assistant at the National Council for Consultation and Rural Cooperation (CNCR), an ILC member in Senegal, there is no one-size-fits-all. He argues that there would have to be a mixture of communal, state and private domain for a thriving and stable tenure system that satisfy everyone.

Funds for land rights reporting

Reports on land governance on mainstream are few in many countries across Africa. One key issue this workshop highlights is that the civil society needs free, strong and critical media to support informed advocacy and debates on land. That is why ILC and ACME are providing participant journalists small grants to investigate and broadcast land stories in their respective countries.

Participating journalists were selected from a poll of over 160 applicants from all over the African continent.  They Include:

  • Ruth Bataumocho (F) The Herald, Zimbabwe
  • Christabel Ligami (F), The East African, Kenya
  • Alvin Worzi (M), Daily Observer, Liberia
  • Suzgo Chitete   (M), Nation Publications Ltd, Malawi
  • Abas Ruhweza (M), Life FM Radio, Uganda
  • Patrick Felix Ably (M) L' emergence Plus, DR Congo
  • Anthony Akaeze (M) TELL Magazine, Nigeria

Participating CSOs were all members of the ILC. They include:

  • Nadya Randrianandrasana (F), SIF, Madagascar
  • Roselyn Teta Korleh (F), RRF, Liberia
  • Moraa Obiria (F), OPDP, Kenya
  • Sheila Chimphamba Lupenga (F), Landnet Malawi
  • Segnane Serigne (M), CNCR, Senegal
  • Guy Makuluka Mukumo (M), PIDP, DRC
  • Nokuthula Mthimunye (F), AFRA, South Africa           

Written by: Janet Napio, ACME, edited for this platform.