The Watergate scandal in the 1970s was made popular by extensive, investigative journalism. Reportage of the scandal made an indelible judicial and political impact in the history of America.
Investigative journalism usually seeks to liberate suppressed facts around an issue. A successful investigative reporting will facilitate change around the issue on which the investigation was carried out.
At MamaYe, we want a life-saving change for maternal and newborn health (MNH). Can investigative journalism help achieve it?
Already, some journalists have reported issues around needless and avoidable deaths of pregnant women and newborns. In some cases, such reports (as this) have pulled the wool off the eyes of policy makers and have spurred them into action, and they’ve started working directly with the journalists that reported the issues.
If investigative reporting could spur policy makers to take action on MNH, we must then empower journalists to do more of it. By foresight and experience, investigative journalism capacity development was built into the framework of the MamaYe campaign.
We have now facilitated capacity development in Investigative Journalism and Evidence-based Reporting of Maternal and Newborn Health for 14 print and broadcast journalists in Abuja, Bauchi and Lagos. The training covered the basics of investigating MNH issues, understanding and interpreting MNH evidence and statistics, using emerging technology in evidence gathering and verification, and going beyond reporting MNH events to analysing them.
The more journalists align themselves to investigative and evidence based reporting, the more the information that will be available to help government’s decision making process on MNH, and the public on taking appropriate action toward helping pregnant women and newborns survive.
We are not at all looking forward to an MNHgate. However, the reasons that government’s promises to improve the quality of healthcare services for mothers, newborns and children are not fulfilled, the reasons women and newborns needlessly and avoidably die, the reason health budgets are made without appropriate use of data, must be investigated, and its result made available to policy makers for necessary and appropriate action.
The change that we want for MNH begins with the power of the media. After all, they say that the power of the pen is mightier than that of the sword. But if we must wield such power, we must wield it appropriately and productively.