Reporting Diversity on the Streets of Algiers

Dates: 21 – 25 February 2014

Country: Algeria, Algiers

AlgeriaThe surly teenager in a dark backstreet near the Port of Algiers was suspicious when Sofiane Si Youcef approached him and tried to strike up a conversation. At first he refused to talk and brandished a stick to ward off the inquisitive stranger, fearing he was a police officer or a child trafficker.

But Sofiane used his journalistic skills to persuade the 15-year-old boy that he was simply a reporter who wanted to hear his story. Eventually the boy agreed to talk. Slowly, patiently, Sofiane drew out of this troubled young man an extraordinary tale of hardship and misery that had left him living on the streets of the capital, stealing and begging for money to buy glue so he could sniff his way to oblivion, a temporary escape from the brutal reality of his daily life.

He said his name was Hafid. He told Sofiane how his father was killed while fighting in Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s; how his mother had turned to prostitution; and how, at school and on the streets of his village, people would taunt him relentlessly as “the son of a terrorist and a whore”.

Sofiane told Hafid’s story in a sensitive and well-written article on street children produced during a five-day course organised by the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) for journalists at Tout Sur L’Algerie, an independent, online newspaper. He showed outstanding journalistic talent in finding Hafid, persuading him to talk and writing his story in a way that gave readers a powerful insight into the lives of hundreds of children who, through no fault of their own, are forced into a perilous existence living on the streets.

The challenge for Sofiane and the other journalists on the course was to find and write a story about vulnerable people, minority groups on the fringes of society whose voices are seldom heard in the Algerian media.

Other stories produced included reportage on mothers who use their children to beg, cancer victims, the problems facing the disabled, immigrants, the unemployed and a story about HiV/ Aids which included a dramatic confession from an embittered woman with HiV who deliberately set out to infect others with the virus after her boyfriend gave it to her and then abandoned her.

The journalists were given two days’ intensive training, and a session with a “diversity panel”, representing groups including the unemployed and – with presidential elections only six weeks away – minority political parties. The reporters then spent two days researching and writing features that would reflect the diversity of the Algerian people.

The workshop was organised within the project “Inclusive Media for an Inclusive Society: Building the presence of youth and marginalised voices in Algeria”, supported by UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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