Media as a Friend of Algerian CSOs

Published: 15 August 2014

Country: Algeria

Algeria_CSOs_fourThe 16 participants on the Media Diversity Institute ‘Making your Mark’ programme are restless. They have received news that three senior journalists will be coming to meet them. Far from being worried about being interviewed by them, their discomfort is at the news that they have to ask the journalists questions.

Participant after participant echo the same sentiment: Shouldn’t they be the ones asking the questions? “What do I ask them?” say two trainee doctors in unison. Dealing with cultural differences and expectations such as this was a common theme during the final media and advocacy training for NGOs in Algiers.

Once the participants are briefed to see the question and answer session with the professional journalists as an opportunity to find out how they work, what they expect from NGOs and how best to pitch their ideas, the restlessness soon turns to optimism.

Algeria_CSOs_threeDoctor Ilyes Kessal, representing APCS, a HIV association NGO, says: “I learned that you don’t have to wait for the media to come to you. You can live with the media as a friend.” He adds: “I now understand that developing a media campaign isn’t easy. You need a communications strategy and media language.”

Fatima Bendida, vice president of AIDs Algerie, who is living with HIV, challenged the journalists about the tendency of the media to use “violent” language when reporting on HIV and AIDS. She is disappointed that they only cover the topic on World Aids Day on 1 December “which isn’t enough and needs to change,” she urges.

Professional and cultural gaps such as these were bridged by the end of the programme, including the common confusion over the difference between running a campaign and running a project, and whether the concept of a media advocacy campaign would be translatable within an Algerian context. Sakhreddine Fenara from the Alliance Club admits: “On the first day I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t know what a campaign was.”

Algeria_CSOs_twoDespite these initial reservations, having the chance to test run ideas in a group setting, having them critiqued and seeing them evolve over five days surprised many of the participants. This was most apparent on the final day when the groups presented their reworked ideas covering all the key campaign criteria from its unique selling point and target audience to the campaign’s duration, objectives and media engagement plan.

Omar Cherif Benabdelaziz says he was surprised at how much some of the ideas had changed by the end of the programme. “I noticed the difference between the first and final presentations, especially the incest campaign, as a result of the training. I can see the group took everything they had learned and used it in their campaign project.”

So what next? Miloud Samai of Future Pour le Development association says: “I’m going to train my NGO how to set up a campaign project. This will be useful in terms of our relationship with the media and to disseminate the messages to our NGO nationally.”

Soulaf Kious from Amnesty International Algeria adds: “I now know how to organise a campaign. I have worked on campaigns for others but I now know from the beginning to the end what is involved. I have learned a great deal and would like to pursue the incest campaign idea with my NGO.”

Finally Fatima says she feels motivated to use what she has learned to assist “Algerian women who are not very well educated in our society”. She explains:  “We have a project to stop HIV being passed on to their children, particularly if they don’t know they have the virus. So with this training we will reach this target audience through the media and social media.”

Another workshops to help Algerian NGOs improve their media relations and advocacy skills were held between 25-29 May and 23-27 June 2014. Each workshop was attended by NGO representatives from various organisations, such as the Network for the Defence of Children’s Rights, The Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, Voice of the Child, Algerian Youth Network, Association of People with Disabilities, and Women in Communications.

The workshops are being organised as part of the project “Inclusive Media for an Inclusive Society: Building the presence of youth and marginalised voices in Algeria”, supported by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.