MFWA STUDY ON MEDIA COVERAGE OF TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Senegalese journalists and media outlets have a strong interest in issues related to corruption and accountability, yet there are very few investigative stories published. A new report from the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) explored the reasons behind this inconsistency, and assessed the level and quality of media coverage of issues of corruption, accountability, and transparency in public affairs management in Senegal.

The methodology for this study was divided into three parts. The first included monitoring editorial content earlier this year for 14 days – 19 February to 3 March 2018 – based on media outlets that address topical issues and have significant audience numbers. Secondly, the methodology equally assessed the quality of coverage, and included interviews with journalists from the target media outlets to evaluate their experiences and skills in covering governance issues. Lastly, 10 representatives from civil society organisations in Senegal were interviewed to sample their opinions on the media’s coverage of issues on transparency and accountability.

Overall, the study arrived at several conclusions. Majority of journalists cover issues related to corruption and transparency in their daily work. Unfortunately, however, most media practitioners, about two-thirds, had no formal training and have not acquired enough skills to effectively cover such complex issues. As a result of the lack of basic knowledge or skills, many journalists in Senegal do not undertake investigations. Furthermore, they do not possess the tools to analyse certain technical information. For this reason, governmental sources and other institutional reports are considered the ultimate authority. This demonstrates how the lack of skills undermines the media’s role in providing oversight and accountability. In turn, citizens perceive that this weakness results from pitfalls in the initial training journalists had and the absence of opportunities to improve their skills.

Most of the interviewees suggested that media in their capacity as key stakeholders in promoting good governance must step up their activities geared towards fighting corruption.

MFWA recommended the following steps:

    1. Strengthen the technical capacity of journalists.

    2. Encourage journalists to conduct investigations on acts of corruption and bad governance.

    3. Educate journalists on the need to make personal efforts to research and understand institutional and legal instruments, as well as the role of relevant actors in specific areas of public management.

    4. Organise experience/knowledge sharing and best practice forums for seasoned and experienced investigative journalists with track records of treating these issues to encourage other journalists to undertake investigative reporting.

    5. Build partnerships and regional and international networks to consolidate adequate information treatment/disclosure.

    6. Institute an annual event with a prize to reward journalists who have successfully conducted compelling investigations on issues of corruption and transparency in Senegal.

Read the full report on MFWA’s website