International Students share experiences from Covid-19 crisis

stduents

In better times before Covid-19. Students share a light moment. Picture by Ani.

Two of my MA exchange students are guest bloggers in this post. (Tiko Georgia) and Ani (Armenia) share their experiences of Covid-19. Tiko’s blog takes us through her tumultuous journey when Covid-19 had just broken out. Hers illustrates among other things, the fear, uncertainty and disruptive nature of crises of global propotions – but ultimately reminding us that at the end of the day, all will be well. We will come out of the darkness.

Covid19 Pandemic: My Unexpected Ticket Home

tiko pix
By Tiko Zurabishvili, Student, MA Global Journalism (Georgia)
Studying in Norway was an adventure from the beginning to the very abrupt end. After spending 2 months in cozy and rainy Kristiansand, I flew to Riga the capital of Latvia known for its architectural marvels, where workshops for budding journalists took place. It was supposed to be a short trip, and I packed rather lightly. Lidya, my dear friend and a groupmate from Ethiopia, accompanied me to the bus stop, from where I would ride to the airport. “I’ll see you in a week,” I told her. None of us had the slightest idea that I wouldn’t be returning to Norway.The week I spent in Latvia was exhilarating: I was in a good company of young colleagues, the weather was sunny, and all bars and restaurants open.However, I was slightly distressed by the current news updating the worldwide cases of Covid19 in a superspeed manner. “It can’t be too serious;peoplejustlove drama. We need to be slightly more careful than usual, that’s all,”I naively said to myself. A day before my departure from Riga,I received an email from my Norwegian coordinator.
The situation was intense, and educational facilities were closing down. NLA University College, where I am enrolled this semester, was urging international students to go back to their home countries if possible. I wasin a dilemma that needed an immediate solution. Instinctively checking my flight online, I found out that Denmark had recently been closed. Guess what? I was supposed to return to Kristiansand through Copenhagen. All in all, I had to switch my tickets to Tbilisi, Georgia the way home.Never before had I been so uncertain about my future. I was flying to a place where I was born and raised, where a loving family and a bunch of loyal friends awaited me. It had to give me some comfort, some sense of security… However, I was overwhelmed. What if I contracted the virus at the airport or on a plane? Would I infect my loved ones? And what about my studies? How will I finish this semester?” the questions in my mind seemed to have no end.Back home, I spent thefirst 2 weeks in selfisolation. People I missed were so close, yet I wasn’t able to see them for their own safety. It felt surreal.
Fortunately, I was able to continue my studies online, which greatly helped me draw my attention away from my anxieties.
Although I didn’t have much expectations regarding distance learning, it turned out to be surprisingly productive.Now,over a month since my return, I’m no longer isolated, but still spend most of my time home. Apart from studying, I take time to improve my writing and video editing skills. In addition, I started painting again something I thought was left in my very early childhood. While still uncertain about what’s next, I feel less nervous. After all, we’re all in this together the whole world. The current reality might not be convenient, but the pandemic cannot last forever. We need to adapt to temporary changes for the sake oftheeventual restoration of our normal, social, affable lives.
Ani

Picture by Ani with her classmates in Kristiansand.

In her blog “Life in Quarantime’,  Ani uses beautiful pictures to contemplate the good and the bad experiences of life under quarantine. Be careful about the dangers of wishful thinking – especially as a student. Her refreshing blog  does more – it is as uplifting as it is a reminder to all of us the importance of friendship, love, patience and the power of quite reflection especially during such crisis (lockdown) times as this one.
Thanks for sharing.
Carol

 

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Reporting while female – What Bedoya’s World Press Freedom (Guillermo) Prize means for plurality of voices in the media

“Pay attention…We are sending a message to the press in Colombia.” The millitants while they raped her.

Jineth

Lima

Ms Lima (center) with Michelle Obama (left) and Hillary Clinton (right) during the International Women of Courage Awards in 2012.

Jineth Bedoya Lima a female Colombian journalist is the 10th female and 24th laureate of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Day Prize for 2020 – and we dont take this lightly. Her resume epitomizes the constant struggle and threat lurking in (especially to female) journalists every-day work life.

You see, Ms Lima (1974) who covers armed conflict and sexual violence against women has first hand experience of this threat. She has been a victim of millitary abduction, torture and rape on two separate occassions while she worked with El Espectador and La Modelo newspapers respectively. The first was on one fateful day in 2000, while covering an arms trafficking case for the El Espectador daily newspaper, she was abducted, tortured and sexually assaulted… and dumped by the trash to be found by a taxi…

In court, this case was dragged along for over a decade and it was not until she appealed at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights that one commandor confessed to being one of her three abductors.

Ms Lima’s prize is timely, uplifting and significant in many ways – surfice to mention just two:

First, the safety of journalists especially female journalists off and online is increasingly worrisome. On a day to day basis, (female) journalists face death threats, sexual harassment, intimidation, jail and rape (the later, as in Ms Lima’s case is often used as a political tool). Many of such cases are not reported due to powerful cultural taboos,  professional stigmas and well as poor economic stature for many journalists.

Secondly, Impunity for Human Rights crimes against journalists due to non-existant or toothless legislation is also cause for worry. The UNESCO report below indicates not only is there a rise in the murder of journalists in the line of duty, 90% of attackers have not been convicted. The Reporters without Borders and UNESCO also warm of the rising threats to journalists during covid-19.

The psychological consequences of the threats to journalists coupled with impunity for perpetuators poses the danger a) for many (female) reporters – often, traumatized and without proper support structures resort to self-censorship and retreat from the public sphere and from their work thus b) effectively silencing their voices and diversity. Silencing journalists endangers plurality of voice, democracy and society.

Lima’s Prize is not just a celebration of journalists’ courage and tenacity. It also is a loud and clear reminder that women are strong, survivors and vital for the profession and for democracy but more importantly, their safety, along with all journalists must be protected especially during these ‘infodemic’ times.

Promote safety of (female) Journalists:

  • Through supportive newsroom practices, cultures and support structures to promote acceptance, support, accurate information (not stereotypes)
  • Provide digital safety to (female) journalists
  • Helpline for (female) journalists caught up in line of duty and post-traumatic events
  • Advocacy – to raise awareness, combat impunity, institution of legislations (with teeth)
  • Research and expose abuse of human rights

Happy World Press Freedom Day (May 3) celebrations.

Sources

Violence against female Journalists

UNESCO survey on violence against female reporters

UNESCO Report on the Intensifiction of murder of Journalists

Also, Where does your country lie on the World Press Freedom Index?

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Celebrating World Press Freedom day 2020 amidst covid-19 and new threats to journalists and the media

Today is World Press Freedom day. The day we celebrate “the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom around the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession”. Exactly one year ago I was at the African Union headquarters in Addis volunteering as a mentor and editor to the global Youth Newsroom that covered the events of the World Press Freedom day. Then, the media coverge lamented the poor state of Press freedom across the world. From arbitrary arrests of journalist, to press censorship, draconian laws, harrassment and intimidations of journalists to the murder of journalists in line of duty. At that time, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were rotting away in prison only to be released after they won the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in Adiss. We disparsed on an optimistic note – with the hope that the situation would improve.

One of many ‘Cartoonist for Peace’ exhibits at the WPF celebrations 2019 in Addis.

2020 however, has turned out to be a year of unprecedented crisis. Covid-19 has caused havoc of such propotions we are yet to properly make sense of. But one area of impact is journalism and journalist work. It is precisely because of the pandemic that today’s F2F WPF day celebrations have been postponed from May 3 to October 18-20 in the Hague. But the pandemic is to blame for unleashing a more sinister wave of human rights abuses against journalists across the globe.

From censorship (USA, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, India) to deliberate disinformation (China), to banning reporters (Tanzania), to arrests and imprisonment (Iran; Azerbaijan, IraqiKurdistan; Jordan; Zimbabwe ) to violence against reporters (Bangladesh, Ukraine); to imposition of new draconian and dubious bills/laws (like in Algeria), to suspension of printing (Liberia). The growing list goes on and on. And this is not to include the ecomonic repurcussions to an already finacially debilitated industry among other areas.

So today, as we celebrate the strides we have made, lets keep up pressure and vigilance to create conducive environements for journalists to report without ‘FEAR OR FAVOUR’ – a slogan highlighting this year’s UNESCO WPF theme.

 

Sources

Reporters without Boarders (Tracker 19)

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Covid-19 and the ‘abrupt’ turn to online teaching and learning

A ZOOM screen-shot during one of the lectures.

The menacing dread and uncertainty surrounding the national enforcement of ‘lockdown’ and social distancing regulation due to Covid-19 is dwindling now. About six weeks ago, the mood was different – gloom, trepidation, concern enveloped our lives as we read and watched the unbelivable rise in Covid-19 casualties – first far away in China, then Italy, Spain and gradually closing in on us. Suddenly, it was no longer danger lurking far, far away. Norway, WE, were on the global danger list.

This reality was driven home when Universities, schools and kindergatens closed (as most institutions) – home not only became the arena for survival (including surviving each other over long time periods in close proximity, hehe!), work, school and child-care tasks shifted and were to be performed at home.

As a University teacher, the virtual turn to online teaching/learning was unsurprising. However, although we engaged in online pedagogies prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, this was only to a lesser extent as F2F pedagogies were still the norm. Quick action in prepping teachers and readying the technical logistics was vital for my case. Lucky for me I had undertaken online teaching courses earlier and am rejuvinating this knowledge through teaching/coordinating it.

So, it then came to pass. With some hiccups, disasters and many triumphs, mostly because of an abundance of patience from my brilliant and enthusiastic students, I have completed one round of online ‘MA Course’ teaching. ZOOM and Canvas has been our friend. I learnt to hold live lectures with various activities and tasks for student engagement – including chat-rooms, breakout rooms, screen shares and synchronous discussions during the lecture. I also learnt to record some lectures for flexibility and asynchronous consumption (but oh, how I loothe the sound of my voice!). Generating and moderating debate/discussion which were given sufficient time as well as quizzes and reflections were also a favourite for many of my students. All this, in a planned paced learning trajectory anchored in and towards the course’s learning outcomes.

With online pedagogies students take an even more central role in their own learning. Social constructivist approaches sustained by a combination of self-learning, experiential learning, peer-reviews, collaborative pedagogies and progressive self-reflection do actually foster active and life-long learning. But while desirable, online pedagogies do take time to construct, implement and sustain. Covid-19 is definately disruptive in the sense that our new normal – in a post-covid world – will include a further shift towards elearning/eteaching pedagogies. The time is rife for institutions of higher learning to put in order the multi-dimensional building blocks for implementing successfull virtual learning (and the role of technologies, multi-stakeholder dialog and research cannot be under-rated).

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Using cartoons to maximize research impact on video game regulation in immigrant-family contexts

The parents, who are the main target group here, are non-western immigrants in Norway. Our research spanning 3 years had gained us insights into video game habits among the youth in these families highlighting complex issues intersecting Identity, Integration, Religious discourse, Gender, Location, Place and space, Ethnicity and more.

On the other hand, the study unravelled the challenges and tensions surrounding video game regulation. While a few managed to regulate this ‘new’ time and money consuming past-time activity, most felt stressed out not knowing how to go about it. As digital migrant parents raising digital native kids pertaking in this global gaming culture, these parents didn’t have the frame of reference to fall back to nor social networks to lean on.

The parents came from diverse backgrounds and had different capacities, needs and challenges: from illiteracy and semi-literacy, to lack of proficiency in Norwegian, to stressed-out and over worked parents who had no time to peruse ‘through complex texts’, to lack of interest and information on the basics ( like pros and cons) of video games and why these are so popular today.

With this understanding, we went to work, harvesting all these insights which have ended in various ‘user-friendly’ resources for parents in 5 Languages. English version:

Cartoons: ‘Navigating video game regulations in immigrant family contexts’

An infographic booklet: ‘When video games Challenge Family life!’

Video: ‘Video games – Youth speak out’

Brochures: ‘Setting age limits’ and ‘Tips and advice to parents’

For more information and other languages visit the Project website.

A big thank you to the Norwegian Media Authority and Competence Center for Gaming Research, University of Bergen for funding the Project, my fellow researchers; Håkon Repstad (MA), Hilde Corneliussen (PhD) and Gilda Seddighi (PhD) and our partners from the Civil Society Organisations MiR, VI, Spillavhengighet Norge and especially NOMKUS for the amazing work in developing, testing and translating into various Languages. And of course last but not least the parents and youth who took part. I am certainly not forgetting John Cei Douglas for the cool illustrations 🙂 It was a fun process developing these.

Do leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

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Elections in Norway, the ‘crisis’ of public disengagement and micro-targeting of voters

Monday 9th September is local election day in Norway. In just one week leading to the D-day, I recieved two reminders to the fact. One of these was a text message and the other, a ‘micro-targeted’ letter posted to me as a voter with an ‘immigrant background’.
This letter, signed by the director of the Electoral directorate, partly states:

Excerps from the letter I recieved from the Electoral Directorate.

Loosely translated, the excerp interpretes as: “Participation among voters with immigrant background is increasing. Contribute to setting a new record. The elections in 2015 had an increase in voters with immigrant background – represented by 40% of the voters. Contribute to a larger participation by voting this year”

You see, research into this public (dis)engagement in formal politics tells us that over the last 50 years, voter turn out has steadily declined to ‘crisis’ levels. In fact, a recent book (2019) by Aeron Davis, on Public Communication – a new introduction on crisis times; two main explainations surfice for this citizen disengagement: a) It is the individual’s fault and Cultural factors that are to blame or/and b) public institutions to fault.

In the West, the argument goes, where material wealth is high, ‘individualistic’ citizens have lost the motivation and drive to bother with formal politics. They are either too lazy, too distracted and therefore unqualified to deal with the complexitities of governance and have to leave it to politicians and experts – the hope is that through periodic elections and perhaps Critical journalism, they will be kept in check and accountable. The Alternative argument is that disengagement is faulted on political institutions that have failed to configure participatory governance. Instead leaders are hiding behind the tall walls of ‘citizen-unfriendly’ governance, aloof and distanced from their electorate. So what is it?

Ch7 dwells on the individual and Cultural factors  ‘Liberal’ and Institutional  ‘Republic’ arguments for Public disengagement.

There are emerging critcal voices that suggest that Citizens, especially young people, are actually interested in politics but choose not to engage in ‘traditional’ forms of formal politics like voting or joining political parties. This is because they have lost faith in these institutions. Instead, they are engaging through alternative channels mainly fostered through digital and online means – suggesting a need for new paradigms for understanding these shifts in civic engagement.

The lose of faith in formal politics is a matter also afflicting marginalised communities such as ethnic minorities like myself with immigrant background; the poor; less educated; women; religious minorities who according to research, unincentivised, feel that their voices do not matter.

So, this letter that I recieved, encouraging me to exercise my fundamental right to choose who I want as a representative and have a voice on matters that concern my community, was not only surpring but a welcome disruption to notions of civic disengagement and the hegemony of marginality in the politics of participation.

So come, Monday, I am gonna walk tall and bring this freedom to life!

Check out how your country is faring with civic (dis)engagement over the years in this voter turnout database.

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Wheels in motion – with ambitious SDG17 proposition

Joining hands to achieve global equality. Internet Picture.

Last week, 55 senior researchers and actors from 20 countries from global North and South came together to deliver a most ambitious proposal to the EU COST ACTION Program. If awarded, the project will boost SDG17 through system thinking. It is an inter-disciplinary network initiative bringing together a multi-stakeholder partnership lead by Professor Arnaud Diemer from the University of Clermont Auvergner, France. Sustainable Development Goal 17 on partnerships for goals is arguably the thread that binds all the Goals and if well formed can lead to an amazing thrust in achieving the SDGs. Many thanks to Prof. Valeria Schwanitz from HVL for inviting me into this consortium. Looking forward to serve and learn – to give and to take 🙂

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Mentoring young journalists covering the UNESCO WPFD 2019 events in Addis Ababa

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The Youth Times team that covered the UNESCO WPFD 2019 events in Addis May 1-3 pose for a picture with Jonathan Munro, Head of Newsgathering, BBC (Center with blue shirt) after a Q&A at UNECA. This feature originally appeared on http://www.youthtimes.info.

IT had been almost 2 decades since I worked in the busy newsroom of Uganda’s leading daily, the New Vision Corporation. That was way back in 2000, before I went for further studies in Norway and changed my professional life trajectory. So, when, this March, I was asked by my collegeue, also an academic, to join UNESCO organised World Press Freedom Day celebrtions in Addis Ababa as an academic mentor, I was justifiably nervous and apprehensive.RQ2A0044

Memories of a heated, noisy and open newsroom, bustling with news producers:editors, reporters, photojournalists, freelancers, visitors and complainants came streaming. The long days and late nights often punctuated with urgent calls in the wee hours of the night to get back to the newsroom to cover breaking news, gave me the shivers.RQ2A0111

It was a restless job, where one’s ears were always on the ground, where whatever you ate, drank, saw, felt or even dreamt had to have a journalistic interpretation. Nosy, was our middle name. As a journalist working for the leading daily, the ever-present understanding was that: It was easier to get to the top but very hard to stay there – as all the others worked knuckle-hard towards beating (and embarassing) us with: news scoops, interesting angles and better sales.

RQ2A0397RQ2A0180But that was not the worst of my fears. Back in 2000 when I was a sub-editor on the New Vision, Sports desk, we were at the dawn of the technological disruptions – Infact, on our desk lead by Louis Jadwong, were pioneers in the transition from analog to digital. Several intermediary jobs such as typesetters, proofreaders, etc were on their way out. Media convergence and multimedia platforms were budding to what today is a well established conglomerate (New Vision employs thousands in it’s roughly: 7 newspapers, 5 radio stations, 4 TV stations and several (e) magazines and other services).

Anyway, soon my apprehension to join the Addis Youth Newsroom, was slowly replaced with a strange sense of excitement and adventure – and a promise of a fast-paced, adrenalin pumped existence swept over me. But mostly, I looked forward to working in a multicultural newsroom, with different collaborators such as academics, young practicing journalists, students etc. I also looked forward to learning from and mentoring the young people in this era of technologically infused journalism.

From the offset, I understood from the UNESCO coordinators especially Soraide Rosario, that it was desirable to foster inclusive, transparent and effective processes around the Youth Newsroom. The aim was to open spaces and opportunities for young journalism students and practitioners to experience a ‘global newsroom’. as well as gain access, insights and practice in covering mainstream issues around press freedom while highlighting minority, thematic and national level  concerns, nuances and perspectives from around the world. RQ2A0112

Participants included; govenrment representatives, journalists, academics, students, advocacy groups, legislators, judiciary members, religious organizations, civil soceity organisations and more. We were all here to celebrate and remind ourselves about the fundamental principles of Freedom of the Press; assess the status of Freedom of the Press around the world; defend press freedom and honour and pay tribute to Journalists who have been killed, arrested and abused for doing their work. Thanks to the Ethiopian government, UNESCO and African Union for the support, about 2000 particiants graced the conference whose theme was: Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”.

So, allocating and editing the young journalists’ stories offered me a broad range of insights: thematicall from: the role of cartoonists play in promoting peace and democracy, to understanding the pros and consequences of critical journalism – also manifested by the story of the jailed winners of the UNESCO Guilermo Award. I also gained insights into some of the dangers of disinformation as well as the double victimhood that female journalists face as well as the worrisom problem of impunity of several actors and governments who continue to abuse journalists’ fundamental human rights – rights ascribed by Article 19 of the universal declarations. Just as an example, on the very day of the WPFD, Ugandan regulator Uganda Communications Commission orderd the suspension of editors of broadcasters for their critical coverage of a budding opposition leader.

The lessons are inexhaustable.

Practically, i was humbled by the brave, pleasant, eager, driven and hard-working young journalists and the fact that I was honoured to work with them. Culturally, i witnessed the importance of being flexible to contextual influences and practices especially pertaining to culture – when working in multicultural contexts. Lucky for me, my colleages were some of the best people, one could work with: relaxed, friendly, professional and inclusive.RQ2A0348

A few tips for prospective students and mentors:

For young journalists/students:

  • Embrace and exploit the opportunity
  • Put the theory into practice
  • Be (pro)active and creative in your pursuit of fair, balanced and inclusive stories.
  • Ask the tough and critical questions when newsgathering.
  • Do your homework/reasearch to support your articles. Verify for accuracy, fairness and balance especially in this era of disinformation.
  • Build networks (of friends and future sources).
  • Prepare to adapt to and reflect multicultural influences, backgrounds and contexts.
  • Enjoy the experience!

For the prospective mentors/editors:

  • Prepare for multicultural influences and experiences: Prepare to adapt to and work with different cultures and for multicultural influences and backgrounds both from the teams and content.
  • Start early: Endevour to work with the team to start early – especially orientations to the location, platform orientation and job specifications.
  • Clear communication: It helps to have an overview, clarity in assigning duties and constant communication not just with teammates but also reporters.
  • Enjoy the experience: this is not a knuckle-hard newsroom, so do your best, inspire the youth, help them produce their ‘best works’, pat them on the back with each delivery, attend some of the events, network, be you – but mostly, enjoy the event and contribute to a thriving atmosphere.

Many thanks to UNESCO, UAA and NLA Univerity College and all partners for this positive experience.

RQ2A0208 (4)

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Adapt or die – of the datafication of journalism practice

Today, I attended the Nordic Data Journalism symposium in the beautiful city of Trondheim. The program was ambitious with award sessions, crash courses and conference presentations all focusing on the datafication of the profession – from computing in journalism to coding skills for journalists, multimedia design and other in-between skillsets elaborating the extent to which datafication has impinged on journalism practice today.

As a global journalism teacher, this symposium couldn’t have been more interesting. The future is digital, thats no doubt. Academic presentations like Professor Hellen Kennedy’s (University of Sheffield) only proved the point. Her research based  insights on how nordic newsrooms have/or not embraced data visualization illustrating issues of transparency and engagement and by extension futures.

The academic was supplimentd by experiences and reflections from the world of Praxis. And no better to present these experiences than award winning Jonas Nilson, the head of design at Adresseavisen in Trondheim. Through his spectacular, futuristic real cases, Jonas gave us a succinct glimpse into the workings and potential of data in journalism practice. Examples were numerous as they were spectacular – from investigative journalism stories in the pit of the dark web spanning international spacial trajectories to covering young people’s every-day lives.

The presentations left me contemplating about both the stable and the shifting knowledge and skill requirements for today’s and tomorrow’s journalism students. i.e. the students competence, capacity, interest and stamina to pull off complex, visualized, multilayered and multi-audience-focused forms of storytelling that ones ‘grand mother can easily use’ :-). All this in the context of the 24/7 news circle and deadline requirement.

Multimedia design, computing, coding being the ‘newer kids on the block’ (depending on where you stand on the continum). As I journey back to the University, i cannot brush off the nagging affirmation that these new kids on the block pose an existential challenge to the potential journalist of today and tomorrow:-).

 

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Women working with technology in rural Norway: experiences of rurality as a double-edged sword

It was a tall order, an academic exercise aimed at exploring a phantom. Tickling our curiosity were concerns whether indeed women, highly educated, pursuing tech-driven careers in academia, research, innovation and media industries were to be found in the rural and peripheral spaces of Sogn og fjordane in Norway. What were the driving factors in their career trajectories; what opportunities were available to them and what bottlenecks stood in their paths?

Continue Reading!

The beautiful Sogn og Fjordane ford. Picture Carol Dralega
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