As our COVID-19 micrograntees in NAWA wrapped up their important projects, we invited them to a private informal event with our NAWA Newsroom students to discuss reporting amid a pandemic and the importance of local independent voices in the fight against misinformation. In that sense, this event provided a reconciliation between two separate Check Global projects with the intent to foster collaboration to partners and students in the region.
This culminated in a two-hour bilingual talk, held on November 21st, about the future of journalism in the North Africa, West Asia (NAWA) region within an increasingly challenging political and information ecosystem. We were joined by freelance investigative journalist Oumarou Sali Bouba–who worked on a French-language investigation on the impact of the pandemic on African asylum seekers in Tangiers, Morocco–and Ahmed Lamloumi from Radio Medenine, a hyperlocal online community radio project appealing to Tunisians in the southern-eastern district of Medenine.
As COVID-19 swept through the world in early 2020, it also impacted both grantees’ journalistic work. For Sali, this meant that traveling from Cameroon to Tangiers to interview African asylum seekers was proving to be increasingly difficult due to border closures. As for Radio Medenine, Lamloumi discussed the economic challenges of pioneering a hyperlocal online radio station as they had to shift from relying on community donations to appealing for short-term international emergency funding (such as the Check Global COVID-19 Microgrants) to shift their work to debunking health misinformation and hosting local city officials as well as public health experts.
Our students, who tuned in from Yemen, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, asked pertinent questions about choosing one’s audience as a journalist, journalists’ safety in investigating taboo topics, and what role will objectivity play in the future of journalism in NAWA.