Published: 2 December 2016
Countries: Algeria, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia
“Sometimes I think about suicide but then when I hear my child cry, I ask God for forgiveness that I even thought about it,” says the mother of five who admits that she sometimes is unable to feed her children. She told her story to the Dune Voices journalist Nadia Retibi.
Nadia is one of dozens of young journalists and citizen journalists reporting for Dune Voices, a multimedia platform set up by the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) in 2014. The Dune Voices specialise in covering topics of marginalised groups and minorities in the Sahara region of six countries - Mali, Mauritania, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. More and more people coming from the vulnerable and communities forgotten by the mainstream media, have found their stories heard through the Dune Voices website. MDI have gathered 19 journalists who write stories from the Sahara, on 20-26 November 2016 in Tunis where they developed the multimedia and mobile journalism skills, mainly via practical and field work and exercises.
All the journalists coming from the southern parts of Algeria and Tunisia to meet the Dune Voices editors and coordinators, prepared interesting and challenging story ideas for discussion and development at the training course, which would then be completed following the workshop under the guidance of the trainers who will become their mentors.
For instance, the Dune Voices Editorial team heard about the forgotten schools in Gafsa, south of Tunis, that lack the simplest of education equipment, shocking pictures of oil companies environmental damages in the Sahara and about a poverty-stricken family living in the mountains of Kasserine on the Algerian-Tunisian border.
Retibi is an experienced journalist who studied journalism before returning to her hometown in Kasserine. When asked why she didn’t stay in the capital, she answers: “I don’t like big cities.” From her choices of stories in her every day work (corruption, investment, or human-stories) it quickly becomes obvious that like many journalists in that training, she deeply cares about her region and hometown.
She sees the mountains of Kasserine beyond the catchy headlines connecting it to ‘’terrorist cells’’ and sees the city beyond stories of smuggling or clashes with security force, though she does not ignore that too. When she speaks about stories from her hometown she talks about difficult issues like unemployment, lack of investments but also speaks about its rich history with Roman archeological sites because Kasserine was a Roman colony and later part of Byzacena province.
The Dune Voices Programme Coordinator Mourad Sellami says that video reporting skills are necessary for any journalist wanting to work in the digital age. “For the end of this and the beginning of 2017, we at Dune Voices are planning to have more visual content. We are preparing powerful testimonies and stories of people living in the Sahara to be told in a video format,” says Sellami.
At the training in Tunis, the Dune Voices journalists met with three exceptional editors, themselves reporters and correspondents who make the Dune Voices Editorial team. They are Rima Marrouch, a journalist with BBC Arabic and Reuters; Assia Shihab El Din, who works for France 24, and Afef Ben Aicha, from the TAP News Agency.
“Working as a journalist from London has its own risk. As you are once or twice removed from stories produced in the field, it is sometimes easy to forget why you fell in love with your own profession in the first place. From the desk of a newsroom, you rarely have the chance to listen in person to people’s stories, to ask them questions, to report. But meeting with the journalists from Algeria during the training workshop was for me a strong reminder me why I chose this profession in the first place,” said the lead trainer and the Chief Editor Rima Marrouch.
Dune Voices is a part of the MDI project “Inclusive Voices for Conflict Prevention and Democracy Building in North Africa: Bringing the Voices of the Sahara into the Public Sphere” supported by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The training course held in Tunis was made possible by funding from the European Union Delegation in Algiers.