Strengthening Media Oversight of the Extractive Sectors

The Natural Resource Governance Institute offers training to journalists in Ghana, Republic of Guinea, Tanzania and Uganda to improve their ability to report about oil, gas and minerals. Lessons from the pilot phase in Ghana and Uganda between 2010 and 2012 have helped NRGI expand and adapt this media training to the journalism and extractive contexts of other countries in Africa and elsewhere.

BACKGROUND

Good governance of oil, gas and mining resources and the revenues they generate requires effective oversight. An active, knowledgeable press plays a critical role in helping inform and engage the public, citizen groups and parliaments and thus help them hold government and companies accountable.

However, in many resource-rich countries, there is no critical mass of journalists with the knowledge and skills to report in depth on oil, gas and mineral issues. In 2009 NRGI commissioned Columbia University's School of Journalism and School of International and Public Affairs to research the environment for journalism in Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda.

The research, There Will be Ink, concluded that most journalism training was short-term with little follow-up or monitoring. Existing training programs had a broad focus on business and economics and failed to address issues about prudent and responsible management of the extractive industries and the revenues they generated.

THE CHALLENGE

Many journalists in Africa are relatively poorly paid, have limited technological support and face political and editorial interference. In countries where oil, gas or mineral exploration and production are new or at the early stage, journalists face the additional problem of having little knowledge about the industry and related economic issues. At the inception of this program, NRGI did not identify any existing media courses that trained journalists on covering oil, gas and mining. Of the journalists who report on business, few regularly cover the extractive industries.

On a more practical level, journalists with limited time and little or no funds to pursue stories often resort to relying on press releases or conferences for stories instead of conducting independent reporting.

Moreover, many governments and private sector interests avoid media scrutiny by remaining silent on public interest issues, such as royalty and tax agreements, budgets and spending. Some countries constitutionally guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of information, but those freedoms may be severely limited in practice. Journalists face threats to their livelihood and safety, and fear of these threats often leads to self-censorship, including an unwillingness to conduct in-depth and investigative reporting.

Addressing the media's role in resource-rich countries is critical as some of these nations will soon receive significant revenues from newly developed oil and gas fields. To report fairly, accurately and comprehensively, journalists need sound knowledge of the sector and to refresh their skills to be able to analyze and report on its complexities.

THE TRAINING APPROACH

Recognizing these challenges, NRGI designed a pilot training program in Ghana and Uganda to promote effective and consistent media oversight of oil, gas and mining. The program, now being institutionalized, seeks to increase the number and quality of stories about extractives across all media platforms, and to develop training tools that are self-sustaining and replicable. Helping the media to perform its role more effectively will contribute to using natural resources for the public good.

The training is meant for early- to mid-career reporters. These will be supported with extractive knowledge, reporting and investigative skills, access to sources and experts, professional mentoring, and financial resources to increase the quantity and quality of their reporting on oil, gas and mining issues.

The program is designed to holistically and intensively support participating journalists over the long term. Each class undergoes training for a term of six months, but continues to be supported throughout the lifespan of the project.

The various components of the training program are chosen and combined in response to the expectations of journalists and media organizations in each country, the results of training needs assessments by implementing partners, and a country's priorities. The two core courses, however, are the pillars on which other elements of the training are built. The participants are encouraged to continue their networking via a dedicated Facebook page during and after the course and by linking to the websites of NRGI and other sources of information and expertise on extractives.

THE TRAINING PROGRAM

  • Core Courses A and B based on a standard curriculum and training manual
  • Mentoring 
  • Grants for investigative and in-depth reporting
  • Mainstreaming extractive issues in academic curricula
  • Knowledge training for editors and senior journalists
  • Editor liaison meetings
  • Prizes for outstanding reporting

 

THE TRAINING ALUMNI

 

NRGI's IMPLEMENTING PARTNERS

African Centre for Media Excellence in Uganda
Institut Superieur de l'Information et de la Communication in Republic of Guinea
Journalists' Environmental Association of Tanzania
Penplusbytes in Ghana
Thomson Reuters Foundation with headquarters in UK

For more information, visit: http://www.revenuewatch.org/issues/media-training