Opening of Elections Reporting Training

First, let me welcome all of you to the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy. We are thrilled to have you with us for the next three days, which I believe are very important for journalism in Malawi, but more so as Malawi prepares for the forthcoming elections in May 2019.

We can all agree that regular, transparent, credible, free and fair elections are an integral part of any successful democracy, but the equation is never complete without recognizing the vital role that journalists play in the process. Since journalists are charged with the indispensable responsibility of keeping citizens informed about electoral processes, the U.S. Embassy believes that they need to be well trained. We are confident that this training will help you to acquire skills that enable you to concentrate your elections reporting on pertinent issues that will educate the electorate. It is issue-based reporting that will help the electorate to make informed decisions about the candidates for whom they vote.
It is our hope that after this training you will help to change the discourse in the elections campaign by shifting focus from reporting on verbal battles between politicians, to highlighting what they promise to do for Malawians when voted into power.

Our partnership with the Media Institute of Southern Africa and the Voice of America to conduct this training is a demonstration of how much the United States Government values freedom of the press. The U.S. Government believes in promoting and strengthening freedom of journalists to do their job without fear of persecution or prosecution. However, we also believe that a free press must be a responsible press that is professional and respects people’s rights. The U.S. Embassy will continue to work with MISA, and others, to ensure that freedom of the press in Malawi is protected and continues to flourish.

At this point, I would like to introduce Joan Mower from Washington DC who graciously accepted our invitation to come and conduct this training. Joan is the head of development and training at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees U.S. nonmilitary broadcasting, including Voice of America. She has worked extensively in Africa on broadcasting projects in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Burundi, among other African countries. She is an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, teaching Public Diplomacy. She is also a former Foreign Service Officer. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience that we encourage you to learn from and we look forward to the lively discussions and reporting that will take place after this week’s training is over.

Let me conclude by noting that this training adds to the list of other trainings that the embassy has supported in the recent past in our quest to help journalists in Malawi acquire skills in various reporting fields. In 2016, we trained over ten investigative journalists in financial crimes reporting. In 2017, we collaborated with the VOA to offer training in basic investigative journalism skills. In addition, in the same year we trained about thirty community radio reporters in basic news reporting and programming. We are proud to be a trusted partner to journalists in Malawi and our commitment to press freedom remains strong.

I wish you an enjoyable time in these coming three days.