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Citizen journalism changes opinions in Kenya's biggest slum

posted 4 Oct 2012, 09:55 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 4 Oct 2012, 09:56 ]

A group of Kenyan youth in Nairobi's sprawling Kibera slum report on what is happening around them then share then share it with the world through YouTube.

NAIROBIKENYA (OCTOBER 03, 2012) (REUTERS) -  Collins Odhiambo and his colleague walk through a narrow path of Nairobi's biggest slum, Kibera on their way to a news assignment.

Collins is one of 15 journalists living in Kibera who work for Kenya News Network (KNN), a community based citizen journalism project that covers news and stories within the slum.

Kibera is home to about 800,000 people living in cramped housing with little access to amenities like piped water or a sewerage system.

It is a reputation the settlement has won over the years and fed by a steady flow of shocked outsiders telling stories of the poor living conditions, as well as residents themselves sharing their experiences of a hard life in the slum.

Today, Collins is working on a positive story -- a report on Victorious Bone Craft Group, a group of young former criminals who are now making a living from selling crafts and jewellery made out of animal bones.

Collins, who joined KNN in 2010 as a volunteer says bad news and one-sided reporting of life in Kibera is what encouraged him to become a storyteller.

"What I like is that we generate our own stories, as opposed to outsiders who come in. Mostly media houses come to Kibera, you will only see them in Kibera if there is fire. And something like what Victoriais doing here today, you will never see journalists coming from outside to do such a story, but the fact that generating our own content, I think that it's a very very important to me. That has also helped in changing the perception that people have of Kibera," he said.

KNN reporters use flip cameras given to them by their funders, a Danish NGO known as DANIDA.

Their beat - 14 sections of the slum, where they report on issues ranging from healthcare, entrepreneurship, youth initiatives and entertainment.

Back at the KNN newsroom, Collins and his colleague are editing their story under the watchful eye of community journalism trainer, Stephen Gwara.

Gwara joined KNN in 2010 and is responsible for overseeing the day to day running of the programme.

KNN which was started in 2002 does not have a broadcasting licence. Once videos are edited they are uploaded onto internet based platform - You Tube, for a worldwide audience to see.

"At the end of the day, we discuss with the journalists. So the next day in the morning, they sign in and each group has a set of stories that they are going to do. So after they come back with their stories, and they edit the story. Later on I go through the story to make some few changes, like colour correction. I master the sound, and upload the video on YouTube, and also see if the story is detailed, if it has enough details," Gwara said.

Julius Ayumo is the founding member of KNN, which runs under the umbrella of the Kibera Community Development Agenda (KCODA).

KNN also aims to empower young people, many them either school drop outs or unemployed and gives them skills that would help them enter the job market.

It has trained hundreds of youth to date who have gone on to work for local and international broadcasting companies.

"And we also felt that Kibera was beginning to get a raw deal in terms of news coverage. The mainline media would only come to Kibera when there is fire. and if there is no fire or quarrels in Kibera for even two years, Kibera would never appear in the news. So then we decided to come out and really bring out issues that actually affected people of Kibera, both positive and negative," he said.

Along with KNN reports, community journalists also publish a monthly newspaper, the "Kibera Journal", which is sold for 20 shillings (23 US cents) throughout Kibera.

Because most Kibera residents do not have access to the internet, a screening of the week's news reports is done every weekend.

"I like it because it showed us the real picture of Kibera. You know at times people tells us the negative picture of our community, but us, at least these boys they do show us the positive picture of it," said one Kibera resident, Miriam Akinyi said.

Ayumo says KNN has applied for a television licence to create Kibera TV, that would cater for the slum's thousands of residents and where community journalists can take their skills to the next level.