A call has been made for journalists to report on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues in evidence-based, accessible and interesting ways, as the media attempts to raise the bar in covering SRHR matters.
Contributing to the debate at the end of a two-day SADC Parliamentary Forum workshop on advocating for SRHR issues though the media, which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, SADC PF public relations officer, Moses Magadza, challenged the media to communicate in simple but exciting language.
Magadza, himself a multiple award-winning journalist, reminded the participants, who included editors, senior journalists and staff of parliament from six SADC member states, that language is “for communication and not display.”
Noting that often journalists lose their audience by trying to communicate in unnecessarily complicated terms, Magadza said the media should strive to reach everyone, from the postman to the professor.
“Let’s keep it simple. People run fast. They do not perambulate at great alacrity. When they drink too much alcohol they get too drunk to walk on their own. They do not get so inebriated as to be incapable of unassisted perambulation,” he said to roars of laughter.
Magadza said sometimes SRHR issues were discussed at a macro level and said a constant challenge was to report in a manner that would put such issues in local perspective. Zambian journalist and blogger Meluse concurred and said there is a need for journalists to put “a human face” to their stories so that they reflect the real lived experiences of citizens.
The participants agreed that SRHR stories were still largely conspicuous by their absence in mainstream media, but put this down to a lack of training in health reporting on the part of most journalists.
To address this shortcoming, the participants strongly recommended that SADC PF works with its partners to develop a health reporting course. They said the course should be accredited, can be offered online and those who undertake it should be given competency-based certificates – not just certificates of attendance.
Meanwhile, the SADC PF, with financial support of the Embassy of Sweden and Norway, has announced the launch of media awards to recognise and reward journalists that report on SRHR, HIV and AIDS issues.
The awards will be handed out in August 2016, giving journalists a year to write and enter their work. The secretary general of the SADC PF Dr Esau Chiviya recently revealed that there are four cash prizes of US$1 000 each in the awards.
Winners will also get certificates. Additionally, there will be a People’s Award of US$500 which will be given to a journalist whose article gets the highest number of likes on the SADC PF Facebook page. The SADC Parliamentary Forum, through its Sexual Reproductive Health Rights, HIV and AIDS and Governance Programme, is implementing a four-year programme to strengthen the capacity of national parliaments in the region to respond to SRHR, HIV/AIDS, and governance issues.
Funded by Sweden and Norway, the programme is being implemented in seven priority countries: Angola, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tanzania.