Reports and Studies
When can journalists become advocates? Media networking in the area HIV/AIDS and the experience of Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria
Issue: The media, it has been accepted, has an inalienable role to play in mobilising public response towards combating the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, journalists have tended to shy away from taking a pro-active response to HIV advocacy, under the guise that they must remain `unaffected' stand-aloof commentators on the issue.
Project: In late 1997, four Nigerian journalists took upon themselves the task of mobilising journalists to an awareness and actualisation of their role as behaviour change agents in the context of HIV/AIDS. They formed Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria and solicited like-minded journalists to join the network. Among other activities, the group embarked on media sensitisation campaigns in newsrooms, stared a training programme on HIV reporting for journalism students and began publication of AIDS News Service, a monthly news bulletin on HIV/AIDS for journalists. It also floated the Nigeria AIDS Bulletin, a discussion forum and news group on AIDS in Nigeria that currently boasts over 320 members within Nigeria and abroad. The network has also entered into partnership with local human rights groups to canvass action on a variety of AIDS-related human rights issues.
Conclusion: Within the two years of its establishment, the network has not only been able to substantially increase journalists' interests in reporting HIV/AIDS, it has also positively affected the quality of the coverage. It has also shown that to be partners in the war against AIDS, journalists need to be advocates, rather than passive observers. By organising into functional networks, journalists can help in breaking the silence around AIDS in our societies.
Presenting author: O. Falobi, International Press Centre 42 Itaye Road, Ogba-Ikeja, PO Box 56282 Falomo, Lagos, Nigeria, Tel.: +234 1 497 2815, Fax: +234 1 492 0205, E-mail: email@example.com