SOAS University of London

SOAS student’s media NGO gives voice to citizen reporters

12 February 2013

A media NGO co-founded by a SOAS History student is grabbing headlines for its work with marginalised groups in the UK and the developing world.

Radar supports citizen reporters and media professionals working in low resource environments through mobile journalism training and digital promotion. The group’s pilot project in Sierra Leone received coverage from both Al-Jazeera and the BBC World Service. Radar worked with 45 citizen journalists to cover the country’s November election, reporting via SMS.

Radar aims to work with groups who are poorly represented in the media, particularly those with disabilities, women and girls, older people and displaced or traveller communities.

Radar was co-founded by Kiran Flynn, third year SOAS History undergraduate, Libby Powell, SOAS postgraduate alumna, and professional journalist Alice Klein. The trio are all former finalists from the Guardian’s International Development Journalism Competition. Flynn won the 2011 competition with her compelling story on early and forced marriage in Bangladesh. Powell’s piece on young people living with disabilities in Sierra Leone won in 2010.

Kiran said: “As young female western journalists trying to cover these stories, we were constantly coming up against barriers – media outlets in the UK wanted to know why they should give the stories to us. Quite rightly, they wanted to hear from those genuinely affected by the stories. We all completely agree with this, but it was hard to watch people’s stories disappear because they weren’t getting covered, often because there is no capacity or skills training to report in those areas. We founded Radar to try and tackle this problem, to use our experience as journalists, knowledge of development and connections with editors to create a simple model that enables people to report on the issues that are important to them – all with just one local text message!”

“Things are going really well so far. Right now we’re training dozens of people from vulnerable communities in Kenya to establish reporter networks using Radar’s outlets to amplify their voices during the Kenyan general election on 4th March. Our next stop is India, bringing citizens’ voices to the fore at the Activate conference at the end of March – a very exciting opportunity. This project has huge potential and right now it’s all hands on deck to build the partnerships we need to finance future work.”

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