Text by Jenny Vaughan, video by Robin Pierro
On any given day in Ghana, most papers are splashed with salacious headlines about the country’s latest political scandals. Drama dominates the news here and unfortunately, crucial human rights stories rarely make it to the front page.
This is in part because journalists in the country don’t have ready access to human rights stories. Luckily, most NGOs in the country do. Most are set up to end the abuses that JHR works with journalists to report on. Child abuse, housing, domestic violence and corruption are some of the critical issues NGOs are working hard to address here.
Jhr recognizes the need to provide journalists with access to those crucial issues. One way of ensuring that is to make sure that journalists can establish strong networks with aid workers here. Another way is to ensure that NGOs know how to interact with the press.
So on last month, jhr hosted a workshop called Bridging the Gap in order to better connect journalists and NGOs in Ghana. The event was attended by the Canadian High Commissioner in Ghana, Trudy Kernighan, who kicked off the day with an inspiring speech.
“The media provide information about democratic change, champion social and political issues, defend human rights and investigative reporting can expose corruption of political leaders,” Kernighan said, noting that NGOs are crucial sources for this kind of reportage. She also addressed the need for “high quality reporting that has the potential to bring about constructive change” in Ghana.
The event, which was expected to be attended by twenty people, drew sixty participants from private and government-owned media as well as a variety of NGOs and civil society organizations. It was hosted by jhr’s overseas program coordinator, Jenny Vaughan, and Adisa Lansah, who is a communications officer at PLAN International, and also a ten-year journalism veteran.
The day started with discussions about how the media can better use NGOs as sources and how NGOs can improve their communication with the press. After lunch, participants broke off into groups, mixing journalists with NGO workers. We practiced writing press releases—an exercise informed by the expertise of the communications officers and the reporters in the room. Then, we drafted articles based on the mock press releases, using jhr’s framework for rights media (PANEL) to guide the exercise.
Participants said they found the workshop incredibly useful and said that this was the first time an event of this kind had been organized. Contacts were exchanged, challenges were shared and an increased understanding of the media’s role in Ghana was established.
It’s precisely the kind of work jhr seeks to promote in its programs. Now, we look forward to seeing those connections being put to good use.