Summary of a discussion in Mali: Security issues and radio broadcasting

| February 6, 2023

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Security crises are a serious challenge for journalists, including radio broadcasters. In this context, sharing key information about peace and public security represents an important opportunity—but also comes with a lot of risks.

Several regions of Mali are experiencing insecurity. So, to build the capacity of our broadcasting partners, Farm Radio invited Mamoudou Bocoum, journalist and director of Radio Kaourale in Mopti, to join the FRI WhatsApp group for broadcasting partners in Mali, which brings together 198 members. The discussion took place from October 10-14, 2022. Mr. Bocoum is also a CFI trainer, conflict-sensitive journalism specialist, and Voice of America correspondent in central Mali. The discussion was moderated by radio craft trainer and networking officer, Abdoulrazack Mamoudou.

The discussion touched on four major themes:

  • What are the security conditions in your area?
  • How do you think you should behave as a broadcaster during a security crisis?
  • What terms should we use to talk about the crisis in the current context of our country, particularly in areas where there is more insecurity?
  • Should men and women behave differently when reporting in an area where their safety is not guaranteed?

There was good input from several participants. Here is some of the most relevant.

Aliou Touré of Radio Santoro said: “We must be impartial in the treatment of information and try to lower the tension in community conflicts. But in the case of terrorists, call the population to be vigilant and above all to collaborate with our security forces.”

Oumou Keita of Radio Mandé said, “You can do your job well and stay safe if you follow certain conditions: knowing how to speak, knowing when to move around, and how to dress.”

On the subject of how to treat information that is reliable but whose source is not verifiable, almost all participants chose to drop this kind of information.

The discussion was also an opportunity for participants to share tips and advice for ensuring that work could continue during security crises. Broadcasters’ advice included humanizing conflicts, giving everyone a voice, and avoiding sensitive subjects and stigmatization.

During these five days of discussion, the resource person, Mr. Bocoum, shared his view on the role of journalism in conflict. He said that the mission of professional journalists is not to reduce conflict, but to disseminate accurate and unbiased information. However, good journalism can often lead to reduction of conflict.

Mr. Bocoum said that the daily practice of good journalism inherently contains several elements of conflict resolution. He listed several, including:

  • Consolidate mutual trust: Lack of trust is a main factor that contributes to the outbreak of conflict. The media can reduce suspicion by investigating hot topics and bringing them out into the open. Good journalism can also present information showing that a solution is possible by giving examples from other places and explaining local efforts to achieve reconciliation.
  • Identify underlying interests: In a conflict, both sides must understand the other’s primary interests. Good reporting does this by asking hard questions aimed at exposing the real content of speeches made by leaders. Good reporting also looks beyond the interests of leaders and concerns itself with the interests of larger groups.
  • Find solutions: In a conflict, both parties must ultimately come up with specific proposals to address their grievances. In their daily work, good reporters ask each party to present their ideal solutions. Good journalism follows a constant process of finding solutions.
  • Encourage a balance of power relations: Conflicting groups must believe that their interests will be considered if they meet the other side for negotiations. Good journalism encourages negotiations through providing unbiased and balanced information, and taking into account the interests of both sides.

We hope that the discussion was well-appreciated by the participants. 

Fatoumata Niaré from Radio Ciwara said: “I really appreciated the discussion on the theme of security issues related to our radio work. We learned a lot from each other. Many thanks to Farm Radio. In concluding this discussion, we remember that journalists remain human beings, that they have the right to life. Therefore, they must preserve their lives above all else. And a good journalist is one who treats information rightly, without taking a position, without advocating for this or that individual or group to the detriment of the other, despite the circumstances. The journalist works for everyone. The journalist must be a person of peace, of social cohesion and not of war, [not someone] who incites hatred.”