[I am reposting this piece from 12 March 2012 today, as once again the contest is for UK writers only. Once again it invites writers who 'have never been to the developing world' to submit articles rather than inviting journalists who know their stories intimitately. ]
Once again The Guardian has announced a journalism competition that has international development as its theme, but which excludes journalists in developing countries from entering.
When this happened in 2011, journalists in such countries were dismayed. “I’m wondering why developing countries are omitted,” one journalist in Malawi told me. “I ran through the themes and they’re all about developing countries.”
Another, in the Caribbean, wrote: “It indeed speaks to an international problem of journalists not necessarily talking with the voice of the communities on whom they are reporting, especially on development issues, and a competition like this ought to aim to redress exactly that!”
I blogged about this at the time, and included the Guardian’s response to my query (see You’ve got to be in it to win it). I had hoped that the Guardian could redesign the competition, or convince their donors to dig a little deeper into their wallets to pay for a truly international contest this year:
“Given that the sponsors are Barclays and GlaxoSmithKline, I can’t imagine that it should be too difficult for them to fund a more inclusive competition that allows the journalists who are best placed to report on development challenges to join in.”
I’ll repeat what I said last year:
I am a big fan of the Guardian — (disclosure: part of my job is to encourage Guardian journalists to report on the research done by my colleagues at IIED) — and I know the paper is trying to do the right thing by promoting more and better reporting of international development from UK-based writers.
But why not level the playing field and create a platform for journalists from the countries whose stories the competition aims to tell?
The backlash against the Kony 2012 video has shown how important this is. It took hold when Rosebell Kagumire and other journalists in Uganda began to kick back against the way the video misrepresented their country and its complex conflict.
As I said last year, I wish the competition’s entrants well and I know that the winning stories will be of high quality.
But I’m puzzled by a journalism competition that aims to highlight crucial issues facing the developing world yet excludes that world’s journalists — the ones who are best placed to report on complex local challenges and what people there think and do about them.