In a bid to improve reporting of parliamentary activities, the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) held a capacity-building workshop for African journalists, drawn from several African Union member states from 26 to 27 August 2022, at the seat of the continental Parliament in Midrand, South Africa.
The main objective of the workshop, the first of a series to be held by the continental Parliament, was to increase African citizens’ awareness of the PAP’s mandate and activities while enhancing public access to information.
Held as part of the African Governance Architecture (AGA) Project, the selected journalists were trained on the role and mandate of the PAP; the AGA project and platform; how to access, re-use and publish the PAP’s information in the simplest form for their audience; and how to engage PAP MPs; entry points for effective media engagements among other areas.
Delivering the keynote address at the start of the workshop, H.E. Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira noted that as the supreme law-making body for the continent, it is crucial that the relationship between the PAP and national Parliaments; its mandate and business are well appreciated, constructively and objectively interrogated and that Parliamentarians are held accountable by the people of Africa.
He added that facilitation of this development would lay a foundation for democratized participation and enhanced awareness of PAP and its impact on African governance architecture. The leader of the legislative organ of the African Union also challenged the press to rethink their role and how they can sustainability and constructively help Africa. H.E. Hon. Charumbira told participants that as the fourth estate, the media must think of ways to use its power to be part of the solution instead of simply highlighting problems in most cases.
“We call on media to go beyond what and start reporting on why and how we can address the challenges facing Africa. The fourth estate should contribute to the AU developmental agenda by interrogating themes of the year and constantly following up on the implementation of AU programmes at the national. We should interrogate ways of how media can help change the narrative about Africa through its powerful role to disseminate information and educate citizens.”
H.E. Hon. Charumbira further emphasised the importance of a closer rapport between the PAP and media as the continental Parliament embarks on a process of reinventing itself.
“The Bureau of the PAP is acutely aware that we cannot achieve our new strategic thrust of reviving and repositioning the PAP within the continental governance matrix without rebranding the institution. We need the press as an ally as we commence the process of rebuilding the image of the PAP the media, therefore, remains the most effective tool in helping the PAP reach its targeted audiences: African citizens. But such work must be done within the norms of good journalism. The rationale behind this workshop is to ensure that standards are met, and the PAP is covered with precision and accuracy.”
The majority of trainees were selected from the African Parliamentary Press Network (APPN). Launched in September 2020 under the auspices of the PAP, the APPN is a Network that comprises press galleries and parliamentary Correspondents in the various African Parliaments to promote the tenet of Open Parliament.
Following opening remarks by the Acting Clerk of Parliament Mr. Gali Massa Harou, participants were taken through the PAP Strategic Plan; legal and institutional framework of the PAP; the communications objectives of the continental Parliament; the AGA Project; the role of Parliament and media in promoting parliamentary openness; entry points for effective media engagement; and the role of media in enhancing reporting of PAP activities. Finally, the workshop brainstormed a joint strategy and implementation plan as part of a way forward.
Closing the workshop on behalf of the President of the PAP, Hon. Lucia Dos Passos, 3rd Vice-President of the PAP, member of the Bureau tasked with overseeing media and communications, conveyed the PAP political leadership’s commitment to continuously work with journalists to improve relations and access to information.
“I am reassured by the level of deliberations held today. I am hopeful that we can count on the media as a key ally to take the PAP closer to the people of Africa. As a Bureau, we also commit to supporting more media engagements to achieve our visibility objectives. As you return to different countries, I appeal to you to spread the word about the PAP, and we hope to see you again soon.” Hon. Dos Passos concluded.