Enhancing Media Coverage of Water Issues in Africa and the Middle East
With funding from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) has trained nearly 30 journalists from the Nile Basin and across the Middle East on a variety of water issues. The trainings built capacity among journalists who often do not have the resources to focus on a single topical issue, such as water. This project represented whole-of-government thinking resulting in an U.S. government interagency project that impacts millions of people by bringing them reliable news and information about water issues.
To date, trainings have taken place in Entebbe, Uganda; Amman, Jordan; and Stockholm, Sweden. The first training in Uganda focused on journalists whose countries are affected by the Nile River. The training involved an important local partner, the Nile Basin Initiative, and generated subsequent exchanges and collaboration between private media houses and official spokesmen and experts. Experts discussed the region's hydrology, energy needs, water-related geopolitical conflicts, ecology, and the environment.
Among the 75 stories that training participants produced, the pieces attracting the widest attention have included an investigation into forestry and water in Kenya, a story about oil in the Nile, and an update on joint efforts to save Burundi's Lake Rweru. The journalists from different countries also tackled thorny subjects, such as the Egyptian-Ethiopian conflict over Ethiopian dam construction.
The program has delivered a lasting impact. The Facebook group “Nile Basin Media” remains active, and since the training, several journalists attended Stockholm International Water Institute annual conference in Stockholm, where they interviewed key officials, including Special Coordinator for Water Resources, Aaron Salzberg from the U.S. Department of State, and water officials from their own countries.
Several journalists have even made water reporting the focus of their professional work, including Gerald Tenywa of Uganda and Mona Sewilam of Egypt. Both journalists won the Nile Basin Initiative prize for their coverage of water issues. In fact, Sewilam’s experience changed her life, as she now focuses her coverage on Africa, bringing stories of water and related issues to her dedicated following on Egypt's Nile TV.
Following the initial round of journalism workshops in Uganda, a second round was held in Jordan for Arabic-speaking journalists, further extending the geographic range and impact of USAGM’s water journalism capacity building efforts.