Thursday, October 18, 2012

Malawi: Online Journalist Arrested for Allegedly Insulting the President

Online journalist Justice Mponda was arrested Monday morning 15 October 2012, in Blantyre allegedly for insulting the president, publishing false information and criminal libel. Mponda works with the news website Malawi Voice.

Discussing the new development that came in the wake of a new electronic bill (E-bill), journalist Pearson Nkhoma writes:

…one can question whether Malawi is a democratic state or an authoritarian one which demands people to tow to the opinion of the government…..
Ironically, the Malawi Constitution, particularly Section 35 and 36, vehemently affirm that "every person shall have the right to freedom of expression" and that "the press shall have the right to report and publish freely, within Malawi and abroad, and to be accorded the fullest possible facilities for access to public information". journalist Justice Mponda. Photo courtesy of

He continues:

Through its machinery, the Government of Joyce Banda sent two heavy armoured Land Cruisers to net Justice Mponda who has so far been charged for publishing false information and insulting the president.

The E-Bill seeks to regulate and control online communications in Malawi.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has already expressed worry over the bill and condemned the arrest of Justice Mponda:

[…]the Malawi government today descended on the Media fraternity based on what the Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has called "outmoded pieces of legislation enacted during the colonial era to suppress dissent and promote colonial superiority".
Through its machinery, the Government of Joyce Banda sent two heavy armoured Land Cruisers to net Justice Mponda who has so far been charged for publishing false information and insulting the president.
So far, MISA has issued a strong-worded press statement calling for the immediate release of Mponda.
The statement revealed that MISA "is shocked and deeply saddened with the detention of…Mponda [on the basis of laws which are] archaic and retrogressive for our country".
According to Misa, "archaic laws have no role to play in a democracy".
The charter has far called upon government to desist from dragging the country to the colonial era by implementing such laws.

The E-Bill, among other things, defines:

[…]precisely the responsibility of technical service providers and editors of online contents.

The bill's chapter three of Part III, which has the headline 'Online user's protection and liability of intermediaries and content editors', defines who the editors are in Section 23.

The draft bill describe operators as intermediary, who are any legal or physical person or any entity that provides electronic communications services consisting of the provision of access to communication networks, as well as storing or transmission of information through communication networks.

The said section of the draft bill says the editors of online public communication services shall offer in an open standard, among others, their names, domicile, and telephone number.

Blogger Richard Chirombo on Zachimalawi quotes his Malawian friend living in South Africa who hopes that the case will be handled fairly:

I hope his charges of sedition, insulting President Joyce Banda and misinforming on the Malawi-Tanzania lake-boarder conflict are not authentic. I hope his case will be handled fairly, and that his lawyer will secure bail on second attempt. I feel personally involved and hope I will not be disappointed eventually.

Commenting on Malawi Voice Facebook page, John Kazibwe says:

Banda is following the path of her predecessors like Kamuzu and Bingu. She's indeed a true jezebel

Mafunga hopes for a speedy and fair trial:

Guys, let the law take its course. We need a speedy trial so we can know whats going on. Its not easy for a journalist of his calibre to tell lies, but its not impossible for him to do so. I hope the police has a valid case, otherwise, this is a very bad sign. I also hope Mr Mponda has solid grounds for his stories.
In any case, I hope he is treated with the fair conduct of "innocent until proven guilty"

Malawi Voice has been critical of Joyce Banda's government since she came to power:

Malawi Voice published an article that revealed that Joyce Banda [Malawi's President] had pardoned a serial rapist Agala Festone Kuiwenga, just a month after the Hig Court had extended his 8 year sentence by one more year due to the gravity of the offence he committed. She also pardoned George Allan Nyambi, a relation of Senior Chief Nyambia of Machinga. Nyambi was convicted of murder.
However, in an effort to silence the alternative voice, the Malawian Governmnet descended on the media practitioner on charges which include insulting the president, publishing false stories aimed at generating public anger against the president.

Mponda has been freed on bail and his court hearing has been set for 16 November, 2012.

International Institute for ICT Journalism

Thursday, October 11, 2012

In defense of journalism education: The 3 essentials it teaches

As fall semester 2012 moves toward mid-term, journalism education is gathering its defenses against assaults on its relevance.

Emory College announced last month that it is closing its program because journalism falls outside the school's emphasis on liberal education, according to Arts & Sciences College Dean Robin Forman.

"It's not our job, as a liberal arts college, to simply train people to be professional journalists — in the same way it's not our job to train people to be professional doctors or lawyers or businesspeople," Forman told a reporter from Creative Loafing.

He's not an outlier. Bill Cotterell, a retired political reporter from Florida went even further. He compared journalism education to driver's education, where the real learning comes from "trial and error."

"Anyone who's smart can learn the 5 Ws in a couple weeks. And if they learn from their mistakes, they can get good at telling you what's really going on," Cotterell wrote on

The Nieman Journalism Lab has an entire series on re-inventing journalism education, including calls to teach coding, entrepreneurship, and other techniques for a profession in flux.

These critiques and suggestions, however, focus on journalism's products — the stories filed, the photographs taken, the apps created, or the content aggregated — while overlooking the conceptualization involved in the process. After almost 25 years as a reporter, I'm convinced a good journalism education turns out students who think carefully and deeply.

That might sound strange, given my background. I didn't go to journalism school. Instead, I stumbled into the field in my 30s, after a few years as a freelance writer. I needed more than a couple weeks to learn the 5 Ws and 1H, but a stint as a night cops reporter gave me some chops.

Along the way, I learned that powerful journalism springs from questioning and probing, skills I was taught as a liberal arts major. If I wanted a memorable article, I had to do more than get quotes from the school board meeting. I had to challenge assertions, perceptions and assumptions – including my own.

Otherwise, I wasn't a journalist. I was a stenographer.

Why journalism education works

When I began to teach about 10 years ago, I pledged to produce critical thinkers who could work as competent, committed journalists. I never assumed my students would go straight into the profession. (In fact, a former student became a rock musician before ending up at Fortune Magazine.) And if they did, I didn't assume they'd stay in a single medium; in 2001, we were talking convergence. While I didn't skimp on mechanics, I knew my students could go wherever they wanted if they had a substantial intellect.

That's also the aim of a liberal education, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities. On its site, the AAC&U writes:

"A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings." (Emphasis mine)

I imagine Emory University agrees with that definition because the university belongs to the association. I just wish Forman and others — including some professional journalists — understood a good journalism education already accomplishes those goals in three important ways.

1. A good journalism education teaches students to search for answers.

Journalism calls the search "reporting." Other professions simply call it  "research." The name doesn't matter as much as the expectation that students will develop the practice and carry it into their professional and personal lives.

Robert Hernandez communicates that expectation when he challenges his students to "Google it" instead of relying upon him for the answer.

"At first, they thought I didn't know the answers and I was using the search engine to cover up my shortcomings," he wrote for the Nieman Journalism Lab. "But those who have truly embraced the Web know what that simple phrase really means: Empower yourself."

2. A good journalism education teaches students to ask the fundamental questions of all intellectual inquiry.

Journalists are so busy extolling the practical applications of the 5 W's and 1 H, we forget how powerful they are. Adrian, at, explained the importance of the sequence in a 2007 post on New Year's resolutions. "All six questions are essential. Missing any of them leaves a gap that must be filled by assumptions or imagination," he wrote.

Any profession or field of study can teach students to employ the interrogative words. In journalism, however, they're inescapable. Habitual use of the 5 W's and 1 H, paired with the push to discover answers, can result in the greatest benefit of a good journalism education.

3. A good journalism education develops intellectual curiosity.

Chalk it up to practice, the 10,000 hours of repetition necessary for mastery. After spending four years immersed in inquiry and investigation, curiosity becomes second nature.

Can a prospective journalist learn these skills on the job? Yes, but news outlets aren't in the teaching business. They're in the publication and sales businesses. They're in the delivering-content to-an-audience business.

Like Bob Cohn, editor of Atlantic Digital, they're looking for folks who "have the right sensibilities – and the skills to succeed in this new age," not for folks who have to learn them.

A journalism program is a dedicated learning environment where students flourish or flounder. A good program should be judged by whether its students have learned to think, regardless of the field they enter or the jobs they eventually hold.

Afi-Odelia Scruggs, an independent journalist in Cleveland, Ohio, has taught journalism to high school and college students in northeast and central Ohio. She has a Ph.D in Slavic linguistics from Brown University.

credit :

International Institute for ICT Journalism

China-Africa reporting grants




Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ghana - Call for participation : Data Journalism bootcamp

October 24 - 26, 2012. Ghana's first data journalism bootcamp is offering free seats to 20 journalists, 20 developers / coders, and 20 members of civil society who are interested in building apps for civic media / open data audiences.

The 3-day event will launch in Accra at Central University College (shuttle service will be provided) on October 24 -26, 2012, and is underwritten by the National Information Technology Agency, the Ghana Open Data Initiative, The World Bank Institute, Google, and the African Media Initiative.

The Bootcamp will be led by senior trainers from Google, the Open Knowledge Foundation, The World Wide Web Foundation, and The Guardian.

The Bootcamp will bring together journalists with and developers / coders to work in teams to build news-driven mobile apps and civic engagement websites using readily available resources, plus data from the World Bank Institute and the Open Knowledge Foundation in Germany, and other global organisations. The best project from the bootcamp will qualify for a $2000 seed grant, to allow the team to build a fully-functional prototype.

Some of the news-driven civic apps and 'utility news' sites built in similar data journalism initiatives elsewhere in the world include Where Did My Tax Dollars Go and the Lord's Resistance Army Crisis Tracker and County Sin Rankings.

Bootcamp participants will also be invited to join the newly inaugurated HacksHackers chapter in Accra, so that they can continue to expand their data literacy skills.

To confirm your seat, you must commit to attend all three days of the Bootcamp . You should reserve your seat by completing the online registration here:

International Institute for ICT Journalism

1st Workshop on Geospatial Science and Technology held in Accra


1st Workshop on Geospatial Science and Technology held in Accra


Accra, Ghana 4TH October, 2012



The Africa Media Forum for Geo-information Systems (AMFGIS) in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the International Institute of ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes) is held its first workshop on Geospatial Science and Technology for journalists in Accra on Tuesday 2nd October, 2012.


Under the theme "Harnessing Geospatial Science and Technology for Socio-economic Development – The Role of Ghanaian Media", the workshop aims at educating journalists on the use of Geo-spatial Information in the Newsroom by focusing on topics such as Introduction to Concepts of Geospatial Technologies, Case Studies of GIS Applications in Ghana with special emphasis on how to generate compelling stories.


"After a successful launch of Africa Media Forum for Geo-information Systems (AMFGIS) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia  in September 2012;  a direct outcome of first ever two-day training of trainers  organized by the ICT, Science and Technology Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), we are pleased AMFGIS is holding this major capacity building opportunity for journalists, in Ghana" Kwami Ahiabenu, II Co-Chair of AMFGIS said.


He added "Geospatial science and technology have a lot of opportunities to stimulate Ghana's socio-economic development and journalists have an important role to ensure increased awareness of these opportunities and the workshop is coming at a right time in this direction".


Ms. Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of ICT and Science & Technology Division (ISTD), UNECA stated that "Africa and Ghana cannot do without the use and exploitation of geospatial technology, whether for its use in elections that ensures the accurate mapping of constituencies, or mapping disease-prone areas for decision-making, as well as assessing the environmental impacts of mining, oil exploration. The main challenge is to get policy/decision-makers understanding the strategic importance of surveying, mapping, GIS, GPS, earth satellite observation and other forms of geospatial technology for proper and effective development planning. It's high time we got politicians, legislators and planners having a holistic approach to the use of technology to countries' advantage".



30 journalists, drawn from print, radio, television and online media houses in Ghana participated. Mr. Mawuttodzi Abissath a participant from the Information Services Department (ISD) says "this workshop is an eye opener and will go a long way to broaden my horizon in my journalism practice, especially the use of technology in development, not only in Ghana but in Africa as whole and I hope similar workshops will be held on regular basis to keep journalists abreast with the latest developments in the geospatial space."

AMFGIS seeks to promote collaboration, information and knowledge sharing on geospatial information, science and technology issues and its impact on country socio-economic development.



International Institute for ICT Journalism