International Center for Journalists Receives Funding to Improve News Coverage of Poverty and Development Issues in Africa

Nov 122008

Three-year program, supported by a $2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is aimed at spurring better public policy by increasing media attention on the needs of Africa’s poorest people

Washington, DC -- The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has announced an innovative three-year program, the African Development Journalism Fellowships, to improve news coverage of critical development issues such as agriculture, microfinance, sanitation and employment in sub-Saharan Africa. This journalism fellowship program is funded by a $2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The program addresses the need for increased information about rural regions, which are affected by policy decisions made in capital cities. Many news organizations in sub-Saharan Africa lack the resources and training to adequately cover rural issues that can determine whether their countries' poorest citizens begin to prosper or remain trapped in poverty.

ICFJ will place media development professionals from its Knight International Journalism Fellowships program into key African countries to help influential media increase coverage of development issues, especially beyond the capitals. The program will create networks of professional and citizen journalists in rural areas, using mobile technology to connect them to media in large cities.

The program builds on the success of ICFJ's Knight Health Journalism Fellowships, also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Health Fellows work in Africa for a year to improve coverage of complicated health and research issues.

In this new initiative, media organizations will work with fellows to mentor reporters as they work on in-depth development stories in rural areas. The fellows will also develop a corps of African journalists with the skills to train colleagues to cover poverty and development issues. Additionally, fellows will help establish development reporting training programs at local journalism associations that will continue long after the program is over.

"Our Knight Health Fellows are mentoring African journalists to produce hard-hitting stories that are forcing governments to invest more in health care," said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. "We believe these new fellows, using the latest mobile technology, will have similar impact in reducing poverty."

Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, announced the new grant at the ICFJ Awards Dinner Nov. 12.

Since 1994, the Knight Foundation has supported ICFJ's flagship program, the Knight International Journalism Fellowships. This program makes tangible changes that improve the quality and free flow of news around the world in the public interest. The program sends international media professionals for at least a year to countries where there are opportunities to promote reliable, insightful journalism that holds officials accountable.

For more information about the African Development Journalism Fellowships, please visit

ICFJ is a non-profit, professional organization dedicated to promoting quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition. Aiming to raise the standards of journalism, ICFJ offers hands-on training workshops, seminars, fellowships and international exchanges to journalists and media managers around the globe.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people--especially those with the fewest resources--have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.