Journalists in Burkina Faso to be recognized for excellence in reporting as the media environment grows

Aug 04 2021

Three journalists will be recognized for their exceptional reporting on maternal, infant, and young child nutrition, as part of a national competition in Burkina Faso that will culminate during World Breastfeeding Week. The competition is a collaboration of Alive & Thrive and the Ministry of Health.

Watch the awards ceremony on Facebook Live: Friday, Aug. 6 at 4pm EST (20h GMT). Go to the Alive & Thrive Facebook page then.

Burkina Faso news vendor
A news vendor in Ouagadougou. Although print media in Burkina Faso reaches just 1% of the population, it has extended its reach through online websites, which reach 30% of the population, according to media monitors.

“Journalists play an important role in promoting, protecting and supporting the nutrition of mothers, infants and young children,” said Raissa Ouédraogo, Director of Communication and Ministerial Press at the Ministry of Health. “With this award, we are recognizing the best journalists in nutrition for their reporting in 2020, and going forward, it will be awarded annually.” 

A jury of communication and nutrition experts from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Communication evaluated several stories submitted, identifying one in each of three categories for recognition – TV, radio, and written press. The winners will be announced at a ceremony during World Breastfeeding Week.

“The award is called Nêema-lobo, which in the Fulfulde language means ‘Good Feeding,’” explained Yasmina Zongo, Alive & Thrive communications officer in Burkina Faso. “This is one way of encouraging reporting that supports nutrition and improving the work between journalists and NGOs, to support the improvement of the service journalists perform.”

The jury judged entries of the first Nêema-lobo award according to general criteria – clarity, readability, and organization – and according to criteria specifically related to nutrition, including links with MIYCN news and realities; diversity and relevance of sources; and the quality of the information, in particular accuracy and richness of information.

Burkina Faso media graphicJournalism in Burkina Faso has grown robustly over the last 10 years, with the launch of more and more news outlets, Zongo said. While government-run news services were once the only choice for many, privately owned news organizations have sprung up, initiated by entrepreneurially-minded journalists.

Audience research shows that radio is the most popular medium, but private TV stations are also popular as are online news outlets: in 2020, radio reached 92% of the Burkina  population, while television reached 87% and online media reached 30%. Although the print media reached just one percent of the population, almost all printed media outlets have websites, significantly extending their reach.

In light of the important role in spreading information journalists play, Alive & Thrive supported government partners to launch the award. But journalists’ value extends beyond simply writing interesting and accurate stories about nutrition, said Hippolyte Rouamba, Alive & Thrive social and behavior change technical advisor.

“Journalists influence changes in behavior and social change, and they raise awareness in the population in general regarding nutrition,” he explained. “And when they are informed, they can also support advocacy. For example, they can question authorities about a particular nutrition issue, shining light on the issue and maintaining pressure to achieve progress.”

A clear example, he said, concerns respect of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

“If a journalist is informed regarding the BMS Code, he can make sure his own publication is not violating the Code, for example, by publishing ads that violate the Code,” he said.

With laws in place to prevent publication of false information, news outlets are a source of credibility, too, Zongo added. A semi-autonomous institution attached to the Office of the President – the “Superior Communication Council (CSC)” – watches over media content, in order to uphold professional ethical standards and government policy. The council can summon journalists and issue warnings for subsequent infractions. 

“In Burkina, the press is a source of credibility,” she said. “The role of journalists has become like the conscience of the population - to help people understand what they should know.”

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