Fahamu President Calls for Enhanced Media Coverage of Minority Issues

By Foday Moriba Conteh

During a two-day exchange meeting held in Dakar, Senegal, from Monday, September 25th to Tuesday, September 26th, 2023, the President of Fahamu, a Pan-African organization dedicated to social justice, Mahamadou Tidiane Kesie, stressed the significant role of the media in breaking down barriers among minorities. The event, organized by Fahamu Africa in collaboration with Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and with support from the European Union, aimed to strengthen regional cooperation between journalists and civil society stakeholders.

Addressing the gathering, the President emphasized the importance of engaging the media and minority groups to promote a culture of peace. He recounted experiences from Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Senegal, where they sought contact with various minority communities, including ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities.

Mahamadou Tidiane Kesie highlighted that Minority Rights Group International endeavours to break down barriers between these groups and give them a voice, as their contributions are vital to the balance of harmonious coexistence.

He stressed that the media plays a fundamental role in this process, adding that over the course of two years, Fahamu, in collaboration with MRG, conducted online training sessions for journalists and courses for activists in several countries, including Senegal, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. These initiatives, he said, aimed to enhance understanding and advocacy for minority issues, furthering that Fahamu organized awards to recognize outstanding work by media and activists in promoting peace and understanding among communities.

To address this gap in media coverage, Kasse explained that Fahamu, through its Engaging Media and Minorities to Act for Peacebuilding (EMMAP) project, has partnered with organizations such as the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) in Sierra Leone and the Media Platform on Environment and Climate Change (MPEC) in Ghana.

Kassé noted that the exchange meeting serves as a platform to establish a network between journalists and activists and also help journalists enhance their reporting and coverage of information related to minority groups, ultimately contributing to peace and sustainable solutions for these communities.

He underlined that to foster unity, countries must actively involve minority groups instead of marginalizing them. Kassé expressed his hope that the exchange meeting would empower journalists from Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Senegal to focus more on issues concerning minority groups, particularly those related to migration and peace building. By doing so, they can address the deficit in media coverage of minority issues, ultimately benefiting their respective countries.

“Through its programs, publications, advocacy, legal support, training, and education, MRG collaborates with nearly 300 partners in 60 countries to amplify the voices of disadvantaged minority and indigenous peoples. MRG defines minorities as ethnic, religious, linguistic, or cultural groups that are numerically smaller than the rest of the population and are keen to preserve and develop their identity,” he revealed.

He concluded by stating that with over 50 years of experience, MRG continues to champion the rights of non-dominant communities globally, advocating for their inclusion and recognition.

In his remarks at the ceremony, the National Coordinator of the Media Reforms Coordinating Group (MRCG) in Sierra Leone, Dr. Francis Sowa, admonished journalists to delve into thematic reporting related to minority communities, stressing the importance of identifying and investigating specific issues instead of merely reporting events.

He emphasized that while reporting on events is essential, it often results in inconclusive narratives and that thematic reporting, on the other hand, offers a more comprehensive and insightful approach as it enables journalists to shed light on issues that may not receive sufficient attention in mainstream media.

Dr. Sowa while commenting on the context of reporting on marginalized communities, recommended to journalists in order to allow the affected individuals to share their own stories rather than speaking on their behalf. He highlighted that when covering minority issues, the public expects to hear directly from those affected, giving them the opportunity to voice their concerns.

The Executive Director of the Media Platform for Environment and Climate Change (MPEC) in Ghana, Ama Kudom-Agyemang, also lamented the insufficient attention given by African media to issues affecting vulnerable populations, such as climate change, conflict, and injustice.

She challenged journalists to redirect their focus towards addressing the concerns of marginalized communities to bring about positive change in Africa.

The Europe Media Officer of Minority Rights Group International (MRG), Anna Alboth, announced that the conference aimed to establish a network of journalists and activists dedicated to championing conflict resolution, migration, and raising awareness of the rights of marginalized individuals in society.

She noted that the network seeks to drive positive change in Africa by addressing pressing issues that often go unnoticed by the public.

Following the opening were presentation on various topics which includes Peacebuilding journalism, covering migration toolkit, role and responsibilities of journalists in covering migration etc. Following these presentation participants had the opportunity to add their voices on the various topics through an open discussion.


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