Media educators from ten journalism and mass communication institutions in the Eastern Africa region took part in a training workshop this week to help them better report on biotechnology and biofuels using radio as a case study. The training workshop was organized by ISAAA AfriCenter in collaboration with the School of Journalism and Mass Communications of the University of Nairobi with financial support from UNESCO.
The training originated from the realization that building capacity of media educators on advanced radio interviewing skills and exposure to basic concepts on the subject would have a multiplier effect from training a larger pool of journalists. This would enhance regional capacity with potential to institutionalize specialized writing on biotechnology in journalism training curriculum. Mr. Hezekiel Dlamini, the UNESCO advisor for communication and information in East Africa, challenged the media and the scientists to find a common language of interaction in promoting factual, balanced and unbiased reporting of biotechnology. The Director of Extension and Training in Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture Mary Kamau emphasized the importance of mass media in creating awareness on biotechnology which she observed is very low in the region.
The trainers were drawn from higher institutions of learning in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. They decried lack of public policy pronouncements on biotechnology that left majority of stakeholders prone to misinformation. Many journalists in the region have been highly critical of biotechnology, associating genetically modified foods with unsubstantiated adverse effects on human health and the environment. The trainers came up with a Course Outline which they committed to implement either in current curriculum or as short-training courses. A training module will also be developed which upon validation will be availed to all journalism training institutions in respective countries to ensure continuity.
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