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Online reporting: Telling Africa’s story on the web

Tuesday 17 May 2016, by SIGNIS

Nairobi, May, 17th, 2016 (CANAA). From May 10th – 13th, Catholic journalists and communications students from 10 African countries took part in a training in Kenya organized by the Catholic News Agency for Africa (CANAA).

During the opening ceremony, Fr. Ndaga read a statement saying that “Africa is often times portrayed as a continent of gloom and doom and societal failures of ethnocentrisms, violent conflicts, corruption, epidemics like HIV/AIDs and Ebola.” He added that there were a lot of good and positive initiatives by the Church and other religious institutions which go unreported: “there are many interventions and positive activities of the Church in Africa that go unreported. Over the years, there has been the desire to share news and other information among the local Churches of Africa. There has also been a longing to have the voice of Africa’s Church heard within and beyond its borders”. CANAA Director, Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla, echoed Ndaga’s views, saying that “Africa does not enjoy a positive narrative globally.”

During the workshops, the participants were challenged to be more aggressive and at the fore-front in telling African stories.

Ms. Melanie Lidman, a Middle East and Africa correspondent for Global Sisters Report (GSR), also took part in the 4-day training through a Video conference. She said that “it is time for African Journalists, who are Catholics, to actively tell the Story of the Catholic Church in Africa.” She explained that “for a long time, people telling the Catholic story have been from the North, that is Europe and North America. However, with the changing trend of the Church population in the south, there is need for stories to come from the south.”

Mr. Makori, the editor of the English version of Pambazuka News, an online Pan African news services, said that Catholics have invested in print media and radio, but are still reluctant to fully embrace the online media. He noted that there are very few websites managed by Church institutions that are updated. He “challenged the Journalists to play a watchdog role to the people by having the value of courage, which enables them to seek and stand for the truth all the time.” He also advised the journalists to tell untold stories because, in most cases, the Catholic content tends to be very predictable, in most cases focusing on the Church hierarchy while living out vital voices on the ground. Finally he encouraged the participants to avoid lazy journalism whereby they only rely on pastoral letters from the Bishops and other Church authorities.

At the concluding session, the participants expressed their appreciation for the training: they found the opportunity to come together very enriching, and said that there is a need to establish and maintain communication networks on the continent as Catholic journalists.

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