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Cablegate: Journalism Trainer Sam Swan Breaks

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001471

SIPDIS


BBG/NI STEWART


STATE FOR AF/PD AMIRTHANAYAGAM
LAGOS FOR PAS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OEXC KPAO SCUL NI BBG
SUBJECT: JOURNALISM TRAINER SAM SWAN BREAKS
GOVERNMENT MEDIA SELF-CENSORSHIP BARRIER IN
NORTHERN NIGERIA

Ref: State 200374


1. SUMMARY: Recent news reports broadcast on
government-
owned radio and TV channels in northern Nigeria
have shown a major shift in their focus from
personalities in government to community-based
issues thanks to the wealth of practical
journalistic and academic experience of U.S.
media trainer and University of Tennessee
broadcasting professor, Dr. Sam
Swan. Dr. Swan
teaching in two VOA-sponsored workshops in Bauchi
(August 5-6) and Kano (August 7-8) has helped lay
the foundation for more professional and balanced
reporting. The result is the positive focus now
beamed on the successful efforts of the USAID in
partnership with Nigerian communities to resolve
the problems with HIV/AIDS prevention, resistance
to polio immunization, child survival and other
health issues, education, agriculture and
conflict resolution. These were issues that the
workshop participants themselves identified as
most important to the community and key to the
survival of Nigeria democracy. ee the big
picture but tell the small story, as Dr. Swan
advice now shaping a new
kind of journalism in
northern Nigeria. End Summary.


2. DESCRIPTION OF ACTIVITY: Public Affairs
Abuja, working with BBG Sandra Stewart and
Professor Sam Swan of the Department of
Broadcasting, University of Tennessee organized
two separate, two-day ommunity-based reporting
workshops in Bauchi August 5-6 and Kano August 7-
8. CPAO Claudia Anyaso kicked off each workshop
urging participants to open their minds to new
ideas. As a result, 40 reporters, mostly from
government-owned media organizations, including 3
community-based newspapers, received basic
broadcast reporting training, which most
participants described as he most vital tool
acquired in their career in years. Former
Director General of the Federal Radio Corporation
of Nigeria, Yaya Abubakar, was the Nigerian
facilitator for the Bauchi workshop, while
Professor Abdulrahman Adam, Chair of the
Department of Mass Communication at the Bayero
University played a similar role in Kano. Both
Nigerian experts spoke of the need for the
Nigerian media to focus their reports on
community interests. At the end of the training
at each venue, the participants themselves, under
the supervision of Professor Sam Swan, prepared
and went away with a checklist of prioritized
topics of community issues they would like to
report on. They were also issued certificates.


3. JUSTIFICATION AND OBJECTIVE: Nigeria may have
the most vibrant press in Africa, a press that
endured decades of military dictatorships and
helped to pave the way for the transition to
democracy, but self-censorship and heavy
government control of the broadcast media limits
their focus. Reporting basically focuses on
personalities and pro-government stories.
Stories are short on facts and long on
sensationalism, especially in the north.
Journalists lack in-depth reporting and
interviewing skills. They do not have a clear
understanding of the role of the press in
ensuring responsible governance. Although these
broadcast organizations are theoretically owned
and financed by the public, the communities have
no access to them. These workshops were intended
to provide skills and attitudes that will help
the press fulfill its role to the community.


4. MPP UMBRELLA THEME AND AUDIENCE REACHED: NI-
PD-01 strengthening democracy. Audience was a
targeted group of 40 journalists drawn from
mostly government-owned broadcast stations
located in 19 northern Nigerian states.


5. USG SUPPORT: Excellent. Thanks to the superb
work by Sandra Stewart, Abuja would welcome an
opportunity to program Dr. Swan again in the
future. He is an excellent and talented
broadcast teacher. Dr. Swan was well-prepared,
using helpful power point tips to create the best
effect in honing the skills of even the most
skeptical of his 40 students. Through his style
of teaching, he was able to challenge the
journalists to go beyond press conferences and
meetings to search for news reports that affect
real people. He encouraged them to be
enterprising reporters, and taught them how to
develop story ideas. Most importantly, he taught
them to be professional, balanced, and to reflect
on issues at all levels of society, and not just
government.


6. RESULT/IMPACT: Very good. Public Affairs Abuja
has seen some evidence of practical application
of Dr. Swan lessons in the reports done
recently by some of the participants on
USAID/Nigeria success stories on Polio and
Education. Two news managers in Kano (City
Television) and Jos (Plateau Radio and
Television) have told PAS Abuja that they believe
the workshop has improved the skills of their
staff who participated in the program, and would
want them to share their knowledge with their
colleagues at work. PAS Abuja would like to
recommend to the VOA a three-week U.S.-side
follow-on training for 10 selected participants
to further enhance their skills.


ROBERTS

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