Developments of citizen journalism in Africa

Picture: Notetaking by David Travis, license Unsplash

Citizen journalism in the Global South is the topic of the new article “Is citizen journalism dead? An examination of recent developments in the field” by Bruce Mutsvairo of Auburn University and Susana Salgado of University of Lisboa looks at the development of citizen journalism in Africa and particularly Mozambique and Zimbabwe. 

The study is not an empirical one but a literature review. The authors seek to investigate whether the recent global lack of research on citizen journalism also means that it is fading out in practice.

The reasons for the lack of research include the reluctance of some researchers to consider it a legitimate form of journalism due to a perceived lack of ethical standards. 

Nevertheless, a number of studies outside Africa and in it exist. Global research tends to emphasize its role in transforming and democratizing mainstream journalism. It is believed to have an impact on civic participation and audience engagement, and on emergence of new models of newsmaking. 

Citizen journalism in the World, Zimbabwe and Mozambique

Studies exclusively focusing on the West were surprisingly few, some existed that  were of China. The countries that were mainly focused on, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, were both examples of a context conducive to citizen journalism: there were constraints to expression but there was also access to alternative sources via technology.

In Zimbabwe, a journalist has to be recognized by the government. As a consequence, citizen journalism is more fragmented there. Still, numerous alternatives exist, mostly anti-government and society-funded initiatives. Some are foreign-backed, while others are true citizen platforms. Social media in particular has proven a useful platform. 

In Mozambique, citizen journalism is closer to mainstream media, as shown in either by resemblance or by source: being made by mainstream media organizations themselves. It is also more community-oriented. 

Newsrooms, whether mainstream or alternative are however very poorly resourced and face credibility problems. The newspaper @Verdade was mentioned as an example of a newspaper “resorting” to citizen journalism as a way to expand sources and to cover gaps in professional journalistic coverage. 

Constraints in both countries, more studies called for

In both countries, there have been constraints: non-official journalists have been arrested in Zimbabwe, and there have been attempts to overtly censor online content in Mozambique. However, due to limited access to internet in most of the country, this has not been a priority. 

The authors call for both more theorization on the subject to distinguish what truly is citizen journalism and what is not, the role of the medium, and also more empirical case studies to reinforce the findings on the two countries. 

The article “Is citizen journalism dead? An examination of recent developments in the field” was published in Journalism (free abstract).

Picture: Notetaking by David Travis, license Unsplash

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