About

Sited at the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development secretariat in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the Media for Justice Project is a young innovative initiative that works with marginalised groups and non violent social movements fighting for social, economic, cultural and environmental justice by helping them use media and communication technologies to inform, organize, mobilize and further their struggles in a non violent way to create a better, more inclusive world.

The Media for Justice Project is an independent media initiative that supports independent media projects, development of innovative ICT technologies for community use, promotes participatory citizen journalism initiatives to increase transparency and accountability.  We also work in areas with unbalanced news outlets, supports individuals and groups to produce media in various accessible forms on relevant issues and topics that fit in with our priorities and ongoing campaigns. We also work with local groups providing support for strategy planning and media production.

 

History and Background

The Media for Justice Project is the culmination of a number of years of disparate participatory media trainings and capacity building in the Niger Delta, and the product of much analysis.

First, we looked at the different levels and types of media being made in and about the Niger Delta.

As the region is a crucial energy export zone for the world, it is able to garner international media attention. Every so often, a major news agency will come to the Delta and do a longer TV or print piece. Generally, this occurs when there is conflict affecting the extracting or export of oil.

On the national level, Nigeria has a vibrant press that often covers the Niger Delta, but again, this generally centers on conflict and little appears about the situation of local communities. Locally - mainly based in Port Harcourt, but also in Yenagoa and Warri - there are numerous newspapers and radio stations offering fairly in-depth coverage of the Niger Delta. Unfortunately, these media are easily co-opted by government and industry, if not outright propaganda tools.

Community and alternative media in Nigeria is almost non-existent. Community radio, an ideal tool for spreading ideas and promoting development, is stuck in beaurocratic limbo, with  the only alternative being university/campus radio. TV is equally off-limits to community voices. One bright spot have been Internet-based news outfits like the citizen-journalism site Sahara Reporters. But, as many Nigerians lack web access, these projects only reach certain demographics.

From this basic understanding of the media landscape we concluded that any strategy for justice-based transformation must include a comprehensive and integrated approach to influence mass-media as well as develop and strengthen the capacity of communities to create their own media and communication networks.

By "Influencing mass-media" we are referring to a vertical process that helps funnel images and stories from local communities up to large international bodies that can influence the press in ways that we cannot. This process is crucial to begin a conversation that includes community voices on the international level about what is happening in the Niger Delta and find possible solutions.

However, for true transformation to take place, it is necessary to supplement vertically-oriented attempts to influence outside decision makers by broadening and strengthening base organizations and communities to represent themselves, mobilize support, and hold local government accountable.

Clearly, independent, community created media is a crucial tool for Niger Deltans. It helps a historically marginalized group represent itself on its own terms, which allows a fuller story to be made public. Furthermore, the practice of making participatory media, rooted in popular education pedagogy, bonds people together in a horizontal, democratic way. Beyond the developmental value to the individual, participatory media allows communities facing similar situations to speak to one another, share resources and tactics, and develop a common strategy for social change.

The Media for Justice Project is designed around what we consider to be the characteristics of a successful participatory media initiative:

•    An established, ongoing dialogue with participants all along the process of conceiving, planning, implementing and evaluating the project.
•    A rootedness in the community’s daily life.
•    A respect for cultural identity. The community should assimilate any new tools of information technology without jeopardizing local values (or language).
•    A contribution to the strengthening of democratic values and culture, thus reinforcing community-based organizations and social movements by allowing the majority to have their voices heard.

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