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FOKO: Reporting The Truth Without Fear

Categories: Feature, FOKO


Lova Rakotomalala updates [2] on the Foko/Ushahidi and twitter crisis report initiative:

The initial soft release of the platform (web based reports only) was due to concern over our ability to properly receive mobile reports. The concern is now corrected and a steady amount of mobile reports have been submitted for the past week from all over the country. The latest unrest over the past 5 days were heavily reported [3] by citizen bloggers via either sms reports or twitter updates [4]: on average, one update every 3 hours were received.

We are also still very concerned about the safety of citizen media users in this increasingly tense political environment and considering the options to enhance the safety of contributors to citizen media [5].

Reporters Without Borders expressed [6] concerns about Malagasy journalists.

FOKO was the first of the Rising Voices projects to post a second evaluation [7] of their activities. In the evaluation Joan Razafimaharo writes:

Last August [8], we were facing many challenges but were proud of the successes we made in a very short time and, of course, with very few resources.

Since then Joan exclaims that many of the challenges were tackled by the whole FOKO community [9] rather than a top down approach. The problem of internet connection was not solved but minimized:

Since there is no place offering free internet connexion in the country, we dedicated our energy to find cheaper locations and motivate the bloggers by distributing connection hours using what is left of the Rising Voices grant, the Mada English Journal payments and little donations by fans.

She comments:

The lack or the high costs of internet connection won’t keep Citizen Media from reaching the regions and becoming a powerful source of reliable news in Madagascar but the network we managed to build will keep on seeking/calling for more partnerships and sponsorships to facilitate our work.

Meanwhile many of the FOKO bloggers continues to be at the forefront of the coverage of the current political crisis [10] in Madagascar overcoming the challenges of costly internet connections especially uploading pictures and videos on the internet. Harinjaka uploaded some photos in his Flickr account [11]:

Mom seeking political change – Photo by Harinjaka [12]

Tahina realizes [13]:

The discovery of the micro-blogging helped a lot the bloggers since it’s really easy and it doesn’t take much time.

Joan publishes a tutorial for micro-blogging and social networking in FOKO Blog Club site [14] [fr]

Thanks to the efforts of Lomeli [15] more than a dozen members of FOKO have joined the social networking site Facebook [16] …allowing links (between the members) to finally consolidate and deepen the collaborative work already started in 2008.

Facebook [17]

Subscribe to Twitter [18]: Check your status, describe what you see, share information to the community in a simple announcement of 160 words. Add friends Foko [19], layshyuu [20], r1lita [21], ariniaina [22], as2coeur [23] etc. For the cost of an SMS sent abroad you can update your status and add your mobile Twitter.

Ariniaina showing great courage and updating her Twitter hourly during the crisis in Antananarivo [24]
Ariniaina showing great courage and updating her Twitter hourly during the crisis in Antananarivo

Nhari [25] is frustrated and prays that a political solution reaches soon in Madagascar.

Although most of the citizen journalists took on the responsibility of letting the world know what was happening in Madagascar, some continued to post about their daily life showing life still goes on. Patrick asks “have you ever tasted an ovotro [26]?

The « ôvotro » is a whitest and softest part inside of the « Ravinala » ( travelling tree). In term of Malagasy food, we can have an “ôvotro” for a very tasty broth.

Indeed many people use it also as a medical treatment for: stomach ache, blood pressure. Just boil the “ôvotro” and then you drink much, you will feel better.

Ariniaina writes [27] a poem on the International Women's Day describing what a woman does each day for the family, which emphasizes their importance.

You can find more from Joan's roundup [28]. Also check out the time line [29] which details recent activities of FOKO bloggers. Here are the links [30] of the blogs of the FOKO members.

The efforts of the citizen journalists of Madagascar have already been recognized by many international media. Check out the Breaking Tweets roundup [31] featuring some of the FOKO twitter users. IRIN interviewed [32] Malagasy bloggers and quoted Tahina: “What we do is very important because the mainstream media here is very biased. We are individuals who say what we see and what we hear,” and Andy: “These are informative bloggers who look for the facts and try to find the truth – and we hope that society will start to recognize them.”

(Thumbnail Image: Riot in Tamatave by FOKO Madagascar Flickr [33])