JournoSOS app launched in Zimbabwe

6 June, 2018
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A distress alert app has been designed for journalists in Zimbabwe which works as a panic button system for media workers in danger situations, ahead of the elections set for July 2018.

Aptly named the JournoSOS, this innovation was developed by one of Fojo’s partner organisations under the Swedish media development programme in Zimbabwe. Media Institute for Southern Africa, Zimbabwe chapter (MISA-Zimbabwe), launched the JournoSOS app for mobile phones in April 2018 to complement a Media Defence Fund (MDF) that they have been running for the past six years. The MDF assists journalists who have been victims of violence and harassment during the course of their work to access legal and medical help. Hiring a lawyer is an expensive thing that most freelance journalists cannot afford to do in Zimbabwe, hence MISA-Zimbabwe, with the help of Fojo, setting up the MDF.

MISA-Zimbabwe designed the JournoSOS app in preparation for the elections on 30 July 2018. Elections have usually been a violent season in Zimbabwe, in which journalists have been attacked by political party supporters while covering rallies and electoral campaigns. It is in response to this environment, that MISA-Zimbabwe decided to move with technology trends and develop such an app to provide emergency assistance to journalists.

The app is designed to work by clicking on it and it prompts the Media Defence Team into action by giving them the telephone number and the GPS coordinates from which it has been pressed in order to show the location of the journalist under danger. The Media Defence Team consists of a network of lawyers that work with MISA-Zimbabwe providing their legal services in defence of freedom of expression and access to information.

In order to use the app, a journalist has to register onto the app and give details about their city, and if they are employed, where they work. Once a journalist is registered onto the app, they have access to use it. The app is designed to have a few quick steps to give the nature of the danger that the user is facing; these options are categorised as:

  • assaulted
  • censored
  • detained
  • expelled
  • threatened

The app has a dual purpose in that it also helps MISA-Zimbabwe to record media violations. MISA-Zimbabwe produces an annual report of media violations in Zimbabwe.

The Swedish media development programme in Zimbabwe ended in February 2018, but was extended for six more months up to August 2018, in order for Fojo’s partners to run elections-focused activities to help strengthen the media to cover the elections in not only as safe an environment as possible, but also professionally and using different mediums that are available to them. All five of Fojo’s partners in Zimbabwe are participating in the elections programme, these are: Magamba Network; Gender and Media Connect; MISA-Zimbabwe; the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe; and the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations.

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