SCOTLAND on Sunday today announces the launch of a landmark nation-building project for Malawi, to provide training for investigative journalists.
The project has been created in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone, the 19th-century Scottish missionary and explorer who played a major role in ending the slave trade in the country.
Two Malawian journalists will be invited to Scotland for a month-long study tour based at Strathclyde University, which has a prestigious investigative journalism department. The Scottish Government has agreed to cover the costs as part of its commitment to improving the governance of Malawi and it is intended the scheme will be repeated in in future years.
The first Livingstone Journalism Scholars will undergo a rigorous selection process before arriving in Scotland in September. Although now known as Strathclyde University, the institution was once Anderson’s College, where Livingstone studied as a young man before embarking for Africa for a life of missionary work and exploration.
As the missing Livingstone was found in Africa by the journalist Henry Morton Stanley in 1869, it was thought fitting that his modern-day counterparts in Malawi should have the opportunity of a return “visit of discovery” in the 21st century.
The two journalists will attend introductory classes of the University of Strathclyde’s Masters in Investigative Journalism course and take part in workplace learning at the offices of Scotland on Sunday in Edinburgh. They will also spend time with political journalists at the Scottish Parliament.
Kenny Farquharson, deputy editor of Scotland on Sunday, said: “We are delighted this SoS initiative is bearing fruit thanks to the enthusiastic support of the Scottish Government and the University of Strathclyde. Investigative journalism has an important role to play in nourishing democracy in every country of the world, here as much as in Africa.
“We look forward to welcoming the first Livingstone Journalism Scholars to our newsroom later this year, and we hope they will be the first of many.”
The Cabinet Secretary for Education, Michael Russell, said the effect on lives of those involved in the Livingstone Journalism Scholars programme was incalculable.
“It will change the lives of the two journalists who will take up the four-week study tour,” Russell said. “The greater impact of this partnership between the Scottish Government, Scotland on Sunday and the University of Strathclyde will be the investment of knowledge and expertise into the Malawian media sector.
“As the country continues to develop, the expectation on journalism to reflect that growth, keep communities informed of what is happening around them and give a voice to the people has never been greater.”
Dr Eamonn O’Neill, programme director of Strathclyde’s MSc in Investigative Journalism course, said: “Research has shown that one of the most reliable ways to judge the health of a democracy is how it treats its own investigative journalists. We sometimes take our own freedoms to undertake this kind of important journalism for granted, especially in western developed countries, which have long enjoyed statutory and common rights for the press and so on.
“Journalists from across the African continent have faced difficult challenges in the past in undertaking investigative journalism, yet even under these constraints, have produced some remarkable and courageous work.
“Through this new programme we believe that we can work with Malawian journalists keen on carrying out investigative journalism in their own country and throughout that area.”
As a result of historical ties, Scotland and Malawi signed a Co-operation Agreement in 2005, covering civic governance and other mutual areas of interest. This culminated in last week’s visit of the Malawian president, Joyce Banda, to Scotland as part of the celebrations surrounding the Livingstone anniversary.
Banda, the first female president of the country visited the Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, the missionary’s birthplace, before addressing the Holyrood parliament. She told MSPs that Scottish investors were welcome to take advantage of opportunities in the south-east African country.