Associação Mídia Lab (ML) is an independent Mozambican non-governmental organisation focused on journalism training and media development, writes Arild Drivdal, Senior Technical Adviser.

It is a capacity-building and training association for the media sector and works with professional and community-based reporters, media managers, journalism trainers and civil society organisations to improve the quality of information made available to citizens.

Over five years, ML has trained a whole new generation of journalists, more than 200 of them, through its 10-month intensive journalism training programme. ML has a history of bold innovation and experimentation and has been pushing the envelope on journalism training in the country, for example, by focusing on learning through practice (by insisting that all work products be published), situational learning, field trips and mentorship.

It makes extensive use of peer assessments and effective feedback loops, many of which take place through mobile apps. It also produces a large number of educational videos, many of which have been financed by the US Embassy in Maputo.

The organisation is now sharpening its focus on investigative reporting.

“There is a vacuum in Mozambique when it comes to investigative reporting,” says Rui Lamarques, ML executive director, who himself is an investigative journalist. “In some parts of the country, there is practically no reporting on issues that are critical for accountability and transparency, and in some regions, we sometimes get more information from international news media than we get from our own domestic press.”

Seeking to address this gap, ML is starting a multi-year journalism training programme for community radio reporters through a USAID-funded project.

There are 128 community radio stations in the country, many of which serve as the only source of credible information in their district. “Working with the community radio stations, we are able to get closer to issues that are relevant at the district level,” says Lamarques. Such issues include biodiversity, wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, artisanal mining, drug smuggling and corruption at different levels. It also addresses broader issues related to economic development, extractive industries and decentralisation.

The organisation is currently working on developing an advanced investigative journalism training programme modeled on the same 10-monht programme to train emerging journalists.

Combining direct and immediate application of lessons learnt with frequent feedback and mentorship, ML expects to accelerate the creation of a new cadres of investigative journalists, some of whom will hopefully establish themselves as permanent features in the media sector. “This is our goal,” says Lamarques. “Training investigative journalists is our contribution to the development of the country, ensuring that official processes are transparent, that officials are held accountable and that economic growth is inclusive and to the benefit of all citizens.”