African science journalists launch professional network
[LILONGWE] Science journalists from across Africa have formed a network to share experiences and information, and to improve coverage of science news on the continent.
The African Federation of Science Journalists intends, among other things, to provide African science journalists with information about scholarships, training opportunities and awards. It will also serve as a forum for members to share ideas, experiences and contact details of relevant individuals and institutions.
The network was created by African journalists who attended the World Conference of Science Journalists in Montreal, Canada, in October 2004. At that meeting, the journalists decided that until elections can be held, Diran Onifade, assistant manager of news with the Nigerian Television Authority would act as the federation's interim president.
Onifade will be supported by two interim deputies. They are Sidi El Moctar Cheiguer, president of the African Network of Environmental Journalists and of the West African Network of Science Journalists, and Nadia El-Awady, IslamOnline's health and science editor.
El-Awady says science journalists play an important role in promoting good science and technology – which she sees as crucial to the development of African countries.
"Networking among journalists plays an important role in analysing science journalism in the region and pointing out what is strong and weak," El-Awady told SciDev.Net. "Through that role it encourages those excelling to continue doing so and encourages the others to imitate their successful colleagues."
Other objectives of the federation include analysing science content in the African media, assessing in particular its relevance to the context of the continent's needs. The network will encourage members to focus their coverage on stories that will further development of the region.
The African Federation of Science Journalists will soon create a website to publicise its activities, attract members, and also host the network's publications, including an annual report. An online discussion group is already active.
African journalists wishing to learn more about the network and how to join should contact Nadia El-Awady at [email protected]
Charles Mkoka is a member of the African Federation of Science Journalists