|Paul Shalala poses with Angolan and Mozambican journalists|
Mr Shalala was invited, together with veteran Angolan journalist Mario Paiva, to address the International Conference on Communication and the Extractive Industry which had over 50 participants.
The two day conference was held from 28 to 29th November, 2014 in the Mozambican resort town of Bilene on the shores of the Indian Ocean.
The two visiting journalists shared their experiences in covering the extractive industries in their respective countries.
Sekelekani Communication for Development Executive Director Tomas Vieira Mario, who was the main organiser of the conference, said he invited Mr Shalala to speak at the conference because of his story on the impact of muti-national mining on local farmers in Zambia which won him the second prize of the 2014 Africa Fact Checking Media Awards.
Mr Mario, said he was impressed when he saw Mr Shalala receiving his award in Nairobi and coincidentally his international conference’s main objective was also on the mining industry which prompted him to invite the ZNBC reporter to his country to share his experiences on how he went about the story.
Below is the speech Mr Shalala delivered in his close to 30 minutes address on 29 November to a fully packed conference room which consisted of journalists from across Mozambique as well as local and international civil society organizations:
I come from a country where more than 80% of our foreign exchange earnings is from mineral related transactions. Zambia is a mining country which is endowed with such minerals like copper, diamond, gold, gemstones and some yet to be exploited oil sittings in the western part of the country.
Just like my Angolan colleague Mario Paiva and my Mozambican colleague have lamented, the benefits of the extractive industries in our countries are yet to reach the common man on the ground.
To try and boost transparency in the mining industry, Zambia has joined the Extractive Industry Transparency Index (EITI) and annually, government releases figures of how much mines pay government in taxes.
Despite this, the public is still not aware of the contents of mining agreements which government enters with foreign investors in the mining sector.
WHY WE NEED INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM IN COVERING THE EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY
Normal journalism practice is not enough to highlight the progress, problems and happenings in the extractive industry.
We need investigative journalists to go deeper and expose the wrongs that players in this sector commit.
There are issues of environmental nature such oil spillages, corporate social responsibility and transparency which investigative reporters need to bring out in their in-depth stories.
Investigative journalism is also needed in this sector because it gives context to stories as reporters spend more time and resources to prepare stories that are way above the common copy and paste kind of journalism.
THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN THE EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY
The role of the media in the extractive sector is to show the actual picture on the ground and raise awareness of the important issues prevailing in the areas where investments are being done.
The media is supposed to keep track of all the investments projects and the promises mining firms make to the indigenous people.
This is important as the public would want to know how far a specific project has gone and whether mining firms adhere to the promises they make to people they displace before investing in their areas.
Another role of the media in the extractive industry is to put the authorities and the investors to task over their actions in the sector.
If there are violation of human rights in the sectors, it is the role of the media to highlight such issues so that there is respect of the law in society.
CHALLENGES THE MEDIA FACES IN COVERING THE EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY
Like I have heard from the Angolan and Mozambican experiences, the Zambian media too faces the challenge of lacking specialized reporters to cover the extractive industry.
In Zambia, we also lack specialized journalism schools that train reporters to report specifically on the mining sector. Most reporters who report on this sector are usually journalists who have taken trainings in business reporting which is broad in nature.
Many good stories in the extractive industry need time and resources to be well investigated and produced. This calls for news organizations to give reporters enough time to do their stories and enough money to fund their logistics.
However, many editors do not consent to long term stories that would be gathered over a long period of time. They prefer short stories that can be published almost immediately.
Editors too would not commit money to a single story that would take long to be aired or published. This is because editors look at their short deadlines and want to ensure their bulletins or newspapers are full of copy everyday.
With the lack of Freedom of Information Law in Zambia, investigative reporters have the challenge of reporting on some aspects of the extractive industry due to the limitations of how far they can go in accessing some vital information.
For example, reporters can not put to task the Ministry of Finance the total money paid by a specific mining firm in a given district to government in taxes and how much of that money goes back to that town to improve the lives of the people who live side-by-side with the investor.
Am happy to hear that the Mozambican Parliament has passed the Freedom of Information Bill this week and my hope for you our colleagues in the media here in Mozambique is that this law will help you adequately inform the masses out there.
THE ROLE OF THE CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY
Am happy that this conference has attracted the civil society as these are a good partner to the media in the extractive industry.
The civil society is there to ensure that the people in areas where investors have established their projects are made aware of challenges they may face and their rights.
Specialized civil society organizations in the governance, environment and water sector are critical in ensuring that the extractive industry does not exploit the locals and that authorities play their games according to the laid down rules.
|Paul Shalala on a panel of discussants at the conference|
When indigenous people have no resources to litigate over their rights, it is the duty of the civil society to jump in and act on their behalf.
In Zambia, some civil society organizations are in court fighting government after it authorized an Australian investor to set up a mine in the Lower Zambezi National Park despite a sharp reaction and protests from stakeholders.
It is such roles that the civil society is expected to play in the extractive industry to ensure a win-win situation between the locals and the investors.
I wish to encourage the sponsors of this conference WWF Mozambique and Sekelekani Communication for Development to brainstorm on the possibility of establishing annual media awards in the Mozambican extractive sector.
This will encourage more reporters to venture into this sector and specialize their reporting.
Secondly, stakeholders with the financial muscle must periodically sponsor study tours for reporters to visit mining sites and other places for them to get first hand account of the happenings in the area and report accurately.
Finally, I suggest that specialized workshops and trainings must be hosted from time to time to train a group of reporters to specifically report on the extractive sector.