Journalists trained to investigate foreign interests

September 22, 2021

Brenna Matendere

Information for Development Trust (IDT) recently organised a training workshop for investigative journalists from the independent media to enhance their capacity to scrutinise foreign investments in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa.

IDT is a non-profit making organisation supporting journalists to report on bad governance and public sector corruption and runs the Grazers News platform  

The training was conducted as part of IDT’s Accountability Files project and with support from the US embassy in Harare, which has in the past supported capacity building among journalists from both the private and public media.

The journalists who came from various media houses—both formal and online—were trained on a variety of topics that included labour law and rights, environmental law and crime, the socio-economic rights of communities hosting the foreign investors, story pitching and the use of various tools to produce and share investigative content.

The Centre for Investigative Journalism Malawi and Zambia’s Makanday Centre for Investigative Journalism also participated at the workshop virtually.

A natural resources and environmental policy expert and academic, Solomon Mungure—who trained the journalists on socio-economic rights and accountability in foreign investments—urged the participants to scrutinise the role played by local authorities, central government and other relevant agencies in the non-accountability of some foreign investments.

He also noted that, while foreign direct investment was supposed to bring development to Zimbabwe, southern Africa and other parts of the developing world, the investors tended to exploit resources in an unsustainable manner and, therefore, needed to be brought to account to ensure future generations benefited from the environment.

During the training workshop, journalists developed an accountability matrix that is hoped to help investigative and other journalists to critically understand the dynamics involved in bringing various players in foreign investments to account.

Jason Roberts, the Acting Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Harare, made guest remarks on the first day of the training seminar.

He stressed the importance of media freedom.

“The US embassy is proud to support this seminar on investigative journalism because we believe that media freedom is vital to a thriving democracy,” said Roberts.

He highlighted the importance of investigative journalism in holding officialdom accountable and noted that media freedom was vital for democracy.

“Human rights remains the cornerstone of US foreign policy globally. Progress on human rights begins with a fundamental commitment to the dignity that is the birth right of everyone.  Progress in advancing human rights begins with the facts,” he said. 

Roberts also noted that the embassy had in the past supported journalists who were doing remarkable work in both the private and public media.

“We have a proud history working to support independent journalism in Zimbabwe.  As the embassy, we sponsor exchanges specifically for journalists, to give them the opportunity to share their experiences and challenges with counterparts from around the world,” he said.

He acknowledged the challenges that Zimbabwean journalists faced, among them constrained resources, and also noted that the US embassy had in the past supported independent journalism in Zimbabwe, with journalists now working in both the private and public media having benefited from the Mandela Washington Fellowship programme.

 He urged objective and impartial reporting, emphasising the need to report on Zimbabwe’s successes and challenges alike.

“We also recognise the effort that you undertake to achieve higher journalism standards. We hope this training will add to your tools, increase in-depth story production, and help you write articles that are compelling, fact-based, and hold governments- local and foreign and their leaders to account,” he said.

Tawanda Majoni, the IDT national coordinator said there was need to systematically report on foreign investments through fact-checked and verified investigations.

He urged the trainees to make sacrifices in their work as investigative journalists as part of their mandate to inform and educate the public.

Nqaba Matshazi, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) regional campaigns coordinator said reportage on foreign investments lacked depth. “We are not diffing deep enough,” said Matshazi, who also discouraged bias in reporting on foreign—particularly Chinese—investments.  

After the training participants summed up a number of themes on foreign investments that they would investigate on.

They pledged to report on various critical developments relating mining, energy, foreign loans, infrastructure, tourism, international aid, the environment, labour rights, tax evasion, financial flows, health and manufacturing.

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