COVID-19: Rwandan Journalists urged to embrace Mobile Journalism

By Nicole Kamanzi M.
On 31 August 2020 at 05:49

Even during the cruel and fast spread of COVID-19 around the world, journalists are among those that are working around the clock to provide authentic information, and in doing so are exposed to infection. It is therefore important to heighten personal protective measures for journalists going out for any assignment. With the purpose of heightening protective measures for journalists; a solution was brought to Rwanda by Ewen MacAskill, an expert in journalism, through a form of Mobile journalism, a new workflow for digital storytelling where reporters are trained and equipped for being fully mobile and fully autonomous.

The training was organized by the University of Rwanda and Media High Council that Christophe Hitayezu, a Journalist and Pandemic Media Mentor at Internews asked Ewen MacAskill to explain how Rwandan journalists can still investigate and present their stories just by the use of their smartphones.

“The great thing about mobile phone these days is that you can pretty much do everything, you can take a video, edit it and have it uploaded in less than 30 minutes.” Said MacAskill “in the wide world, almost 70% of the population follow news using their phones; and what they are doing is watching videos. Mobile journalism is where the future is, and all you need is a smartphone.”

“Before, we used to carry heavy camera and sophisticated equipment when going on field that can be quite intimidating in different areas; yet it was found that when you are using your phone in recording, people are willing to share information with you,” he added.

MacAskill said that mastering the technique is not the only purpose of the Mobile journalism (MoJo) program; he explained that with all the techniques every journalist has to also remember that every new has a structure of storytelling.

At the beginning of the year 2020 the Mobile journalism (MoJo) competition was started worldwide and Ewen MacAskill was among the mentors for Thomson Foundation.

The MoJo training that organized by UR and MHC have been conducted at Musanze District last Week from Monday to Friday, and brought together 23 trainees.

“When we asked people to send in stories, quite often they would send nice videos, but they were not connected to the news. You know having Mobile journalism technique is only one half, the other half is having an understanding of what the news story is," said MacAskill.

In the middle of MoJo course, the COVID happened. As part of the course people were asked to go out and do news stories on video and then send their edited program. MacAskill was one of the judges, but because of COVID-19, it was difficult for people to go out and do their interviews, so all their original plans have to be abandoned, and people had to produce stories in the new COVID19 environment.

MacAskill said that during those times some people responded well “Just because of the COVID, it doesn’t mean you can’t do interesting stories … you don’t take risks, don’t break the law and you can still produce interesting stories,” he said.

MacAskill said that COVID-19 should not be an excuse for people to stop being good journalists because the pandemic has affected everybody in the world, “You should always be producing stories. There is a huge appetite everywhere for stories about the COVID-19,” he said.

Ewen MacAskill is the former defence and intelligence correspondent for The Guardian having worked for the UK media organization for 22 years.

He played a key role in reporting the revelations from computer analyst whistle-blower Edward Snowden about the mass surveillance by US and UK intelligence agencies. He has received a number of prestigious awards for this work and was a member of the Guardian team who, along with the Washington Post, received a Pulitzer Prize in 2014.

During his career with The Guardian he held a number of senior editorial roles including Washington bureau chief, diplomatic editor, and chief political editor.

Before joining The Guardian he was political editor of The Scotsman.

Ewen has worked on a number of projects with the Thomson Foundation and is acting as a mentor for participants on the Thomson Foundation digital and multimedia summer course. He is also assisting participants from the Journalism Now e-learning programme on investigative journalism techniques.

The training was organized by the University of Rwanda and Media High Council
Ewen MacAskill is the former defence and intelligence correspondent for The Guardian having worked for the UK media organization for 22 years.
Christophe Hitayezu is a Journalist and COVID-19 Pandemic Media Mentor