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Journalists Benefit from Media Strengthening Outreach

U.S. Ambassador Katherine Canavan (middle) chats with NACA Coordinator Chris Molomo (right) and ACHAP Managing Director Dr. Themba Moeti at a WAD workshop for journalists.
U.S. Ambassador Katherine Canavan (middle) chats with NACA Coordinator Chris Molomo (right) and ACHAP Managing Director Dr. Themba Moeti at a WAD workshop for journalists.

GABORONE – In a country where HIV/AIDS has dominated headlines for more than two decades, news reporters writing these stories are starting to suffer from a different kind of disease: issue fatigue.

The daily task of finding new angles to cover the same story can be draining, and without a deep understanding of the latest developments in research, prevention and treatment, it can be frustrating work.

Realizing the important role journalists play in keeping a nation informed, international partners are reaching out to media houses with an aim to strengthen reporters’ knowledge and skills and improve quality and consistency of reporting on HIV/AIDS issues in Botswana.

The following is a sample of some of the outreach being conducted with support from the U.S. government:

World AIDS Day

WAD supplement
WAD supplement

Broadcast and print journalists in Gaborone were given a chance to interact with researchers, program managers and people living with HIV/AIDS during a workshop in conjunction with World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, 2007. The conference, which ran under the banner “Take the Lead. Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise,” was jointly organized between BOTUSA and ACHAP with help from Beata Kasale from The Voice newspaper. It was funded, in part, by PEPFAR.  Botswana President Festus Mogae gave the keynote address at the workshop. During his remarks, the president spoke of the need for Botswana to consider all prevention options – including circumcision – in order to stage a comprehensive response against new HIV infections.

“Priority number one is prevention, priority number two is prevention, and priority number three is prevention,” Mogae said. Adding her voice to the issue was U.S. Ambassador Katherine Canavan. While treatment is critical, she said, prevention is key. “Picture a water tap running and flooding the floor. Instead of struggling to mop the floor, shouldn’t we first try to turn off the tap?” the Ambassador asked. Journalists took part in a live video conference on the power of global partnerships with Dr. Tom Kenyon, PEPFAR’s Principal Deputy Coordinator, and Dr. Luke Nkinsi, ACHAP Board Chairman. The video conference took place at the U.S. Embassy in Gaborone with Dr. Kenyon participating from Washington, D.C., and Dr. Nkinsi calling from Seattle, Washington.

One objective of the workshop was to produce an eight-page newspaper supplement with stories written by the journalists from themes gathered at the two day workshop. More than 100,000 copies of the supplement were printed and distributed for readers in all major Botswana newspapers on World AIDS Day and over the following week.

New Directions Seminars

Communications specialists from BOTUSA, the U.S. Embassy and the Media Institute of Southern Africa are collaborating on a project targeting journalists outside of Gaborone in some of Botswana’s more remote districts. The two-day seminar, called “New Directions in HIV/AIDS,” attempts to educate reporters on the latest developments in HIV/AIDS research, results and programs. Presentations from government and non-government partners include ones on the nation’s new emphasis on prevention, the roles of Peace Corps volunteers in districts, links between TB and HIV, and the media’s role in the fight against AIDS. So far, two-day seminars have been held in Selebi-Phikwe and Ghanzi with plans for more in Serowe, Kasane, Tsabong and Francistown.

Twinning Partnerships

Thapelo Ndlovu of MISA
Thapelo Ndlovu of MISA

PEPFAR has also helped build a cross-border partnership between media organizations in Botswana and Zambia. The media twinning activity is between the Botswana chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in Gaborone and the Zambia Institute of Mass Communication Educational Trust (ZAMCOM) located in Lusaka. The partnership is designed to improve timely, accurate news coverage of HIV/AIDS-related topics as a means to increase public awareness about the epidemic, how the virus can be prevented, and what treatment and support options are available to people living with HIV/AIDS. This partnership is fostering the professional development of both MISA and individual journalists in an effort to increase public access to reliable information about HIV/AIDS.