Fifty reporters and editors in the West African sub-region who gathered to meet for a one-week training programme, Tuesday, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, received kudos from leading global experts on corruption, drug trafficking, terrorism, and organised crimes who told them how central investigative reporting is to their work.
The sub-regional body is called the Cell Norbert Zongo Centre for Investigative Journalism in West Africa, in homage to the slain Burkinabe journalist who in December 1998 was assassinated under the dictatorship of former President Blaise Camproare.
Samuel De Jaegere, the Anti-Corruption Advisor for the United Nations office on Corruption and Crimes spoke of the enormous capacity in media regarding anti-corruption and organised crimes which he said is often more than what many governments have. For this reason, Mr. De Jaegere said, the future of the region will be better if its media take more purposive and active role in reporting and analysing the nefarious network of organised crimes.
Mr. De Jaegere emphasised the key role of investigative journalism in promoting rule of law and justice. While saluting the progress made by many sub-regional governments in ratifying the United Nations treaty against corruption, he bemoaned the slow pace at domesticating the law in the specific countries, picking out Burkina Faso for specific kudos as an exception to the pack in the Francophonic West African corridor.
The American Ambassador to Burkina Faso, Andrew Young, spoke of the strategic role that media and civil society institutions play in promoting transparency and accountability, conditions that he said, were critical to the region’s development and progress.
Drawing correlation between poverty and violent extremism, Mr. Young pointed out that “our study, corroborated by the Afrobarometer’s own study, reveals that some 40 per cent of development aid is stolen” in the region, and urged participants to intensify efforts in their pursuit of accountability and transparency because “even if your reporting is not always positive, it will make the society better.”
Burkinabe Minister for Communication, Remis Dandjinou, a former journalist, said the watchdog role of the media is fundamental to development and deepening of democratic values. For this reason, may heroes in the media have lost their lives, Mr. Dandjinou observed. He called for a one-minute silence as tribute for all departed investigative journalists who lost their lives to make their communities better off.