Mobile Journalism a way to empower women journalists in sensitive areas

Henna Saeed speaking at the MOJO Asia Conference on 28th June 2019 in Bangkok. Photo by: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
Henna Saeed speaking at the MOJO Asia Conference on 28th June 2019 in Bangkok. Photo by: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

During MOJO Asia Conference, Fojo Media Institute meets with Henna Saeed, one of the panelists who discussed about “Mobile Journalism in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities”.

Henna, an award-winning multimedia journalist and mobile journalism (MOJO) trainer, has worked as a reporter and producer with BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, Dawn News TV and the Daily Times, in Pakistan for over ten years. She reports for BBC URDU and BBC World Service TV, Radio and online. In 2018, Henna holds her PhD in news media from University of the Punjab, Lahore.

Henna brings forth the positive side of MOJO in her discussion, while highlighting crucial qualities to pay attention while creating contents as a mobile journalist. During her basic mobile journalism workshop, she gives greater clarity on the differences between mobile journalists and citizen journalists.

Digital transformation with numerous tools and techniques has been flowing in the journalism field. There are a lot of on-going debates about mobile journalism and citizen journalism (CJ). What should we know about it?

“There is a thin line between citizen journalism and mobile journalism. CJ is when any citizens take up their mobile phones and record anything they see. It doesn’t have to be technically correct that journalism professionals would bother about. They just open their phones, record, and post on their social media (or) give it to mainstream media. That is citizen journalism when citizens are contributing to the cause of journalism and news.”

“Mobile journalism is when a professional journalist; be it by occupation or in education, they take up their smartphones and then make video, edit and transfer it, or just take the video to the newsroom and broadcast, or put on social media. And, a combination of both slow innovation and rapid innovation can be seen in MOJO.”

“As of now, we are blurring the line when CJ are trying to do MOJO, but not in a correct way. It sounds MOJO is very casual and people are not taking MOJO seriously. Similarly, when mobile journalists do not follow their MOJO rules (ethics and qualities), they cross the line towards citizen journalists.”

“So, the basic difference between CJ and MOJO is the seriousness; following the grammar, composition, light of shooting, and other technicalities involved. When a mobile journalist makes a footage on his/her smartphone and transmits it, what makes it special is the news worthiness it has, the timeliness it has, and urgency of that piece. It has to be newsie whether it is documentary or news. In my opinion, when there is a cross over between CJ and MOJO, we weaken the cause of MOJO being taken seriously.”

During your discussion you’ve pointed out a lot on MOJO as a way of empowering women journalists. How can MOJO be an advantage for women journalists especially in sensitive area?

“Journalism across the world has seen a partial ratio of men and women recruitment. Talking about South Asia, 90% men and only 10% women are working in the field of journalism. MOJO enables women journalists to just rely on themselves. Both physically and mentally, MOJO can go out and shoot with their own ease and convenience, without needing to put up with anybody’s uneasy mood and baggage.”

“As a freelance, I used to work with a traditional cameramen team, both in local and national news stations in Pakistan. Also, for international team such as BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera. So, I have seen a variety of people. The way MOJO can empower women journalists especially in South Asia is that they do not have to put up with the entire (men dominated) team, their schedules, and their mood.”

“Women journalists can just pick up their MOJO kits, go anywhere to the field for coverage by public transportation. And, they can shoot within their own schedules and pace. Traditionally, when women reporters go to the field, she has to go with male cameramen, male driver, male helper, and come back to edit the video by a male editor, then send to broadcasting crew, which is also male-crew usually. So, we can see that one woman has to put up with all men in the team, though some men are wonderful.”

Henna Saeed’s definition on “Mobile Journalism for Journalists” at MOJO Asia Conference in Bangkok. Photo by: Nai Nai

How is MOJO suitable for sensitive issues and sensitive locations?

“For sensitive and remote locations, MOJO is really convenient because when you take a traditional camera, people get intimidated and they can spot you easily. You become a highlight for security and police forces. They might stop you to do your work. With mobile phones, it is very easy to shoot in such areas because you are not being noticed. It is just like any citizens taking out their mobiles and shooting something. Due to citizen’s rights, police forces cannot stop you from using your phone. So, you get to do your job without attracting any attention, which is really cool. If it is within the parameter of laws, I used MOJO in those area where traditional camera is banned, and I get my work done.”

“MOJO kit is also useful for sensitive issues because possible interviews or footages can be done without making other people conscious about it. I have done some interviews on my smartphone as the interviewees get really scared and cannot speak nor answer my questions after they see the traditional camera.”

“The interviewee can be a victim of an incident or anybody else. With a MOJO kit, you get more confident to approach people, they are comfortable and talk more casually about sensitive issues. So, this is the positive side of MOJO in difficult situations, locations and with taboo subjects.”

What is your perspective on MOJO and traditional reporting team?

“Working as a team has its benefit as well. Over the years during my reporting period, I have developed a healthy communication with different teams, journalists, cameramen, and editors. When you work in a team, you get protection and support, and no need to be single-handed in chaotic situations. Some male journalists are so good that they help and support with you their work.”

“At the same time, there are still traditionally conservative men editors and cameramen who put a lot of hinderance in our work. For instance, they are not in the mood to shoot on that day, and have to tell them shoot this or that way again and again. If they are in a bad mood, a woman journalist has to bear those consequences.”

“With MOJO, you don’t need to bear anyone’s mood, schedules, baggage that they have brought from their home or work. You are just so free to go out with your mobile and tripod.”

“As of now, there is a balance between MOJO and traditional news crew setting, which we can bring both along in harmony, as both has its benefits and flaws. May be until MOJO is the only way to do reporting. Then, we could have a MOJO team of two journalists.”

Do you have a say for legacy/traditional media who are still in denial of MOJO phenomenon?

“There are many who eventually accept MOJO, but still a lot more who are in rejection. Rejecting MOJO means rejecting innovation. Those who reject are usually not comfortable with new innovation, reliance on technology, but continue to work with their traditional way of equipment and practice, within their comfortable offices. So, they have a resistance towards MOJO and they are the one who termed MOJO as ‘casual journalism’ or ‘non-serious journalism’. It is very difficult to bring them towards MOJO to accept because they don’t want ‘change’. The most important solution that I can think of is; all MOJO journalists to come together forming a MOJO network to spread our fabulous and eye-opening works, so that MOJO will be well received. Gradually and steadily, MOJO journalists are making our place across the globe.”

“There is a problem within newsrooms that I have seen. The late acceptors will say MOJO is not solution to any situations and will try to demotivate you by giving various negative reasons against MOJO. If there is such situation, the best is to ask a chance for you to make story by MOJO way. If the story is well accepted, you can convince them to do once in every ten stories, and later half-half. It is a slow process but the best way is to prove what MOJO is worth of.”

“Right now, we have to make the world understand that MOJO is a serious business though it is a new phenomenon and we are working towards making it acceptable in newsrooms within South Asia and across the world as well. Yet, a lot of work is needed for that.”