International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world’s biggest journalists’ organization, has chosen Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union (BOMAWU) as the hub for organising in Digital media in Southern Africa.
Officiating at the ceremony, which was held in Gaborone, IFJ Executive Secretary for Africa Pa Louis Thomasi said Botswana and Kenya were chosen as the first countries to pilot the project due to the high numbers of journalists in their unions. He said the world is becoming digital and therefore it is important for journalists working in the digital media to unionize as the sector has the potential to trample on their labour rights.
The internet, he said, is a similarly groundbreaking advance, “and it brings with it a huge challenge and opportunity for innovation and the restructuring” of organized labor. “Unions tend to, much more than they’re given credit for, innovate and expand their membership over time,” said Thomasi.
One of the challenges faced by the unions in mobilizing those working in the digital media, according to Thomasi are that most them are faceless people making it difficult to identify. He cautioned that although citizen journalism is becoming more dominant in the digital media, it cannot replace professional journalism.
Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central Dr Phenyo Butale called on journalists to embrace digital media and be innovative. Dr Butale who is a former Director for Freedom of Expression Institute which is based in South Africa called on the media to advocate for Freedom of Information Act as it will help in writing well balanced stories.
As a pioneer in digital media in Southern Africa, BOMAWU is expected to carry a research on global project to help journalists unions conduct research and develop a strategic plan to enable them to strengthen the union by recruiting and organizing among digital workers and/or younger journalists.
The research will be shared with other unions in Africa.