Chargé d’Affaires Diallo Opening Remarks
VOA Affiliate Journalism Training
October 9, 2017, 9 a.m.
Best Western Hotel, Port au Prince
Good Morning. It’s a pleasure to see you all this morning, including long-time friend, Joan Mower. It’s great that three top VOA media professionals from Washington, all Creole speakers with Haitian roots, are able to conduct this training. You may know that part of VOA’s mission is to support its affiliates with training, but rarely , but rarely around the world are we able to provide such a high level of training by a team that has such an intimate understanding of the local culture.
VOA has a long and strong relationship with the people of Haiti. For over 30 years, VOA has provided local, regional and international news to millions of Haitians. VOA broadcasts on radio and, more recently, on television and by social media and internet. We are proud of the deep friendship and important news delivery service we have been able to build together for the Haitian people.
Walter Conkrite said, “Journalism is what we need to make democracy work.” I therefore welcome the holding of this seminar on theimportance and the role of the media. Freedom of expression and the importance of a vibrant and robust press are critical elements of a democratic society. This is why, considering the vital role the media plays in producing verified, balanced news, the media is known as being the fourth estate or power.
Social media is growing rapidly in Haiti and is a wonderful distribution platform. But journalists have to be diligent in vetting information from the internet. To use the words of Abraham Lincoln: “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet simply because there’s a photo accompanying the text.” I understand that some of the sessions will address how to spot false stories — or fake news — and make sure that accurate pieces clarify the truth and dispel rumors.
As you know, I have worked in the field of public communication for most of my professional life. There will always be new tools on the horizon which will provide you with better data and statistics to analyze the work that you do, which are important advancements. However, in my mind what is revolutionary about the emergence of social media is the opportunity to engage, listen and interact. When I began as a diplomat we only cared about what a few key government officials or national influencers said, today we are much more able and determined to understand the most important issues to average citizens. I believe the same is true for the media. You have a responsibility to listen and in fact dialogue with your audience. I encourage you to know your audience and understand what information needs the public has.
One of the essential roles the media has in a democracy is to manage the tensions between the government and the press. Katharine Graham, editor of the Washington Post, declared: “News Is What Somebody Does Not Want You To Print. All the Rest Is Advertising. The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don’t print matter a lot.”
I wish you a productive week of training, and please know we all appreciate your feedback, It’s a key way for us to learn how we can improve our services. Please continue your good work!
With that, I am happy to take a few questions.