MTN Ghana is collaborating with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) to train 10 journalists from selected media houses to understand the telecom industry better and become anchors for regular and in-depth telecoms reporting.

The training will take three months, and would include four days intensive course, site visits to MTN facilities, the National Communications Authority and the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications.

Participants would also generate stories based on the knowledge to be provided, and also do a review of their work and the course program by the end of the three months.

MTN is paying the bills of over GHC16,000 and MFWA would draw the training program and pull the resource persons to train the journalists in the technical, economic, operational, legal and regulatory, public interest, and other aspects of the telecoms industry, which are not sufficiently reported on in the media.

In line with that, the two parties held a consultative meeting with the editors of the selected media houses and agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), in which the editors would make a commitment to ensure that after the training, their beneficiary reporters would become anchors for regular telecoms reporting.

Executive Director of MFWA, Professor Kwame Karikari said the importance of the training stemmed from the huge gap in telecoms reporting in the country, and that was largely because not many journalists understood the industry very much.

He noted that the telecoms industry enhances and promotes business, social relationships, scientific research, security, and good governance among other aspects of national life and yet very little is reported on its core aspects.

Prof. Karikari said the technological innovations and legislative and regulatory frameworks of the industry and how those affect people’s right to quality of service, privacy and communication are mostly not captured in the media.

“Public interest is core to the work of the media and for that the media need to understand issues of pricing, quality of service, privacy and confidentiality in the telecoms industry and how that affect the public’s right to free expression among other things,” he said.

He noted that there is less consumption of technology in Africa and Ghana for that matter, partly because “we do not manufacture much of those technologies here in Africa and also because we do not know much about them because very little is reported in the media.”

Prof. Karikari therefore stressed the need for journalists to make it a point to understand the telecoms industry and take telecoms reporting seriously because the industry has become an integral part of daily lives in Africa.

In Ghana, for instance, there are an estimated 17 million people using over 21 million connected mobile phone lines out of a population of 24 million.

Prof. Karikari urged other telecom operators to join the initiative so more journalists could be trained after the pilot with 10 journalists.

Corporate Services Executive of MTN, Cynthia Lumor said MTN was involved in the initiative because it felt the need for the telecom story to be told in a holistic manner.

She said, for instance, 10% of government’s tax revenue comes from the telecoms industry alone and yet very few people even think about what contribution the industry was making to the development of the country.

Cynthia Lumor said MTN was also committed to ensuring journalistic excellence in the area of telecoms reporting, much in the same way it was to excellence in journalism as a whole, through the support for the Ghana Journalists Association Awards, Sports Writers Association of Ghana Awards, and a special package for the Telecoms Reporter of the Year.

Some editors were concerned that MTN wanted to train journalists to become their mouthpieces, instead of being critical of their services, when the need arise; but Cynthia Lumor said the intention was not to make the media house an extension of MTN’s PR outfit, but to improve telecoms reporting as a whole.

“This is why we engaged the MFWA, which is an independent body that encourages freedom of the press,” she said.

In a speech read on his behalf, the Chief Executive of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo said ‘telecoms in itself is news happening right in front of our eyes but many journalists are not paying attention so they miss the story.”

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