Mutual learning through a North–South partnership
During its eight years of activities the Journalism for Civic Involvement, Democracy and Development (JOCID) project made a lasting impact on the institutions and individuals involved. The partnership of Southern and Northern higher education institutions provided opportunities for professional development and personal growth for students and lecturers alike.
During its four consecutive project cycles (2007–2009, 2009–2011, 2011–2013, 2013–2015), the JOCID network brought Finnish and African higher education institutions together in a joint effort to develop their curricula and pedagogic practices, with a purpose of providing high-quality journalism training that would, in the long run, contribute to media development in the partner countries.
The most recent project cycle of the JOCID network, JOCID IV, officially ended in November 2015. So did the funding instrument which made the partnership possible. The North-South-South program, which for ten years was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and coordinated by the Centre for International Mobility (CIMO), will be merged with another funding instrument, the Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument (HEI ICI).
This marks the end of a long and fruitful partnership—or to be more optimistic, perhaps the beginning of some new form of collaboration. It still remains to be seen what kinds of opportunities the new funding instrument will provide for Finnish higher education institutions wishing to build partnerships with developing countries.
Setting up student radios
From the beginning of the JOCID project, a strong emphasis was put on the role of the media in democratic processes and development, and on community- and citizen-oriented journalistic practices serving this role. Another central focus area was developing hands-on training in journalistic skills—first in radio journalism and later also in cross-media journalism—as opposed to theoretical, teacher-centred and lecture-based education.
The long duration of the cooperation made it possible for the JOCID network to accomplish concrete and remarkable results at the institutional level. With the support of the Finnish partner institutions, which have long experience in using a student radio as an experiential learning environment, partner institutions in Ghana, Namibia and Tanzania set up their own student radio stations.
Sharing the best practices of integrating a student radio in journalism—or other student-run media such as the cross-media publication Tutka at Turku University of Applied Sciences—training was just as important for the success of the student radio undertaking as was the technical support in designing and constructing new student radio facilities.
Getting new perspectives
The JOCID network exposed participants to media environments radically different from their own. Finland has been ranked first in the World Press Freedom Index for five years in succession, whereas the African partner countries with their fairly recently liberalised media systems still face serious challenges with freedom of expression, ranging from corruption in the media to harassment and violence against journalists.
Sharing and comparing experiences from different countries during student and expert exchanges, intensive courses and public seminars served mutual learning. The participants did not only learn about media systems, cultures, and social and political systems different from their own, but also learned to see their own cultural, social, political and media environments from a new perspective.
It is precisely these changes in the individuals involved, which may in the end be the most remarkable result of an international partnership like JOCID - even when they are not the explicit objectives of a project.
Professional and personal growth
The JOCID project touched upon the lives of hundreds of students in the Southern and Northern partner institutions. Some of them benefitted from visiting lecturers’ expertise and from working and learning together in an international student group in their own home institution. Others participated in an intensive course organised in one of the Southern partner HEIs every second year during the project’s duration. The group most strongly affected was exchange students studying and living for three months in a previously unfamiliar country and culture.
For most African students, travelling to Finland was the first time they travelled abroad. For most Finnish students, an exchange period in Ghana, Namibia or Tanzania was the first time ever in Africa - or at least in that specific country. For many, it would not be the only or last visit to the continent, as they developed a special interest in and relationship with the region. For both African and Finnish students, the exchange period was an eye-opening and life-changing experience.
Learning to see things from new perspectives, understanding people with different social and cultural backgrounds, communicating with people from other cultures, and working effectively in multicultural groups and in new cultural environments are important working-life competencies for all higher education students.
They are even more vital for future journalism professionals who are expected to be able to interpret and explain an increasingly complex, interconnected and volatile world to the public.
MORE ABOUT JOCID
- Reflections from Intensive Course video
- Digital Stories from Iringa
- Benefits from Jocid audio interview made for radio workshop
- Previous Jocid article in The Sun Ship 2/2014
FOUR FACTS ABOUT JOCID
2. Partners in JOCID IV: Turku University of Applied Sciences (coordinator), Ghana Institute of Journalism, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Polytechnic of Namibia (soon Namibia University of Science and Technology), and University of Iringa.
3. Activities during the four project cycles (2007–2015): Student exchanges (58) and expert exchanges (35), intensive courses (4) in Southern partner countries, network meetings, public seminars and Shaping the Perspectives of Future Journalists publication.
4. More: http://jocid.turkuamk.fi/
”The Earth was flat until someone checked the facts”
Hate speech, disinformation and the new era of freedom of speech in Finland got experts talking in the seminar organised by TUAS, Helsinki Metropolia UAS and the JOCID network at the beginning of November. The seminar “In the Front Line for Freedom of Speech” discussed the global responsibility of journalists for freedom of speech and how we should respond to hate speech and disinformation.
Researcher Matleena Kantola and Chairperson of the Finnish Foundation for Media, Communication and Development Juha Rekola agreed that Finland is now facing a new situation. The message from the field is that journalists have started to be afraid. Journalists who write about immigration and the equal marriage law in particular receive hate mail and threats. There have also started to be problems in getting into sources.
”We have stepped into to an era of uncertainty and insecurity. This is the new normal. The basic principles of journalism, ethics and relying on checked facts are nowadays emphasised. We have to hold on to these,” Rekola pointed out.
“Ten years ago, journalists wondered if they would no longer be needed, when the technological development enabled public journalism. However, today there is no doubt about whether professional, ethical journalism is more necessary than ever before,” Rekola said.
According to Matleena Kantola, the media should think about how to handle issues related to immigration.
“Bringing the two extremes into discussion in journalism is not always objective but it highlights the stereotypes.”