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“Reporting from the back of beyond” is how Witness from Bulawayo describes his role.
He’s one of more than 100 citizen journalists trained by the Mobile Community Zimbabwe (MCZ) over the last four years.
A few weeks ago he was among 10 attending a week-long training course at the MCZ headquarters in Harare.
The aim was to show the next generation of Zimbabwe’s community journalists how to use mobile phones and free apps to shoot, package and broadcast stories that, had it not been for them, the world would never have known.
The quality of the MCZ output is mixed, but that’s to be expected; many of those involved in the project haven’t had any journalism training.
What’s important is that they are producing original journalism from areas of Zimbabwe rarely covered by mainstream media. And they are focusing on under-reported issues affecting diverse communities who, without the MCZ, might not have a voice.
Their reporting is real, fresh, sometimes raw, but always relevant. The topics they cover matter. They have already identified their target audience, they’ve set out the issues they plan to cover on their behalf, and they have set in place a long-term planning process to ensure a steady stream of relevant stories about their communities.
In all cases, the problems the MCZ highlights require action, and by raising them the team of citizen journalists is seeking answers and calling the relevant authorities to account.
MCZ is a resource too valuable to lose, and it needs ongoing support. So much has been achieved. A dynamic and enthusiastic local management team is working hard to find new partners and extend the life of the project.
Natasha Msonza is the Project Coordinator based in Harare. She says the project makes it possible to “challenge dominant state media narratives through use of alternative media while being a natural outlet for marginalised community voices.”
“MCZ is filling a gap in terms of objective coverage and representation. A lot of important community-level stories are sidelined by the mainstream media. The inevitable void therefore needs to be plugged in ways that ensure that dialogue on important issues affecting ordinary citizens stays on the public agenda. That is where MCZ comes in.” Natasha Msonza
MCZ is a project of Free Press Unlimited (FPU). If you or your organisation would like to know more about the training model, or support the project, please let me know and I will put you in touch with FPU.