Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

New NGO Run-Newsletter Enhances News Access in Kakuma

Posted in Humanitarian Services, News Updates by KANERE on August 28, 2013

FilmAid International Kakuma has launched a refugee newsletter under the umbrella of UNHCR

KANERE, an Independent Refugee Free Press, welcomes the addition of a FilmAid newsletter, The Refugee Newsletter, to the media environment of Kakuma refugee camp. The Refugee Newsletter is sponsored and run by the NGO FilmAid. It aims to be youth focused, providing students enrolled in FilmAid’s Journalism Training Program an opportunity to write and publish.

The more information and expression that refugees have, the better the enhancement of voices in Kakuma. The critical question is, what is the difference between the two newsletters in the camp?

Two news outlets with distinct characteristics

So what are the meaningful differences between a refugee-run and an NGO-run newsletter? Here in Kakuma, the difference arises in several forms, including editing and management, funding and material support, and journalist identities.

Perhaps the most important difference concerns editing and management of the news outlets. The Refugee Newsletter is edited and published by FilmAid. The Chief Editor and head of design and layout is Mr. Paul O. Odongo, a national (Kenyan) staff member. The former UNHCR mass information officer, Caroline Opile, is also involved in supporting the publication as it is considered a humanitarian outlet under the umbrella of the NGOs. KANERE, on the other hand, is completely independent of UNHCR and other NGOs, being run and operated entirely by refugee exile journalists in the camp, on their own budgets.

Another difference lies in funding and material support. KANERE is not empowered by humanitarian NGOs in their operation, while The Refugee Newsletter is well funded and equipped through FilmAid. The offices of The Refugee Newsletter are based in NGO premises in the Humanitarian Aid Compound One, where it is edited by humanitarian officials. KANERE, on the other side, doesn’t have a furnished office except a mud-brick wall standing inside the refugee community in Kakuma One. Despite submitting proposals, KANERE has so far not secured any funding or material support from any Humanitarian Agencies in Kakuma. Its staff work entirely on a voluntary basis and some have done so for years. Nonetheless, global readers can find original refugee thoughts online that KANERE in its small capacity publishes.

In the four years since it was established, KANERE journalists have approached the UNHCR Head of Sub-Office, seeking better security measures for staff at KANERE and support to strengthen media freedom in Kakuma. In response to KANERE’s proposal for material assistance for the project, the former UNHCR Head of Sub-Office Dr. Mohamed Qassim, provided a letter on behalf of all Humanitarian Aid Agencies operating in Kakuma, stating that KANERE cannot be supported because the paper wishes to remain “purely independent.” He was referring to the fact that the KANERE team wishes to remain independent of UNHCR and NGO staff in the writing, reporting, and editing process. Of course, the relevant form of independence for a news outlet lies in management and editing rather than material support (major news outlets around the world routinely receive revenues from outside bodies without allowing them a role in editing and management of the news content). Unfortunately, mutual disaffection between KANERE Free Press and the camp governing authorities has persisted for years.

One minor distinction that readers will notice is that journalists’ names (or “by-lines”) appear in The Refugee Newsletter, providing an opportunity to credit and showcase the excellent work of refugee students who have reported a particular story for their paper. Meanwhile, KANERE articles are anonymous. Why is this? In 2009, KANERE’s editorial board was cautioned by NGO and UNHCR staff about security concerns involving refugee identity. To avoid exposing refugees’ identities, the board was advised by these officials to stop using refugee names in its publications, including journalist by-lines. KANERE stopped using by-lines in subsequent editions.

Benefits of diverse perspectives

KANERE welcomes any new emerging media voices in larger Kakuma. A distinct benefit of having two news outlets in the camp is to reach a larger audience and new readers.

Another benefit is to allow readers to compare and contrast differences between how the two papers report on refugee affairs inside Kakuma. Given the differences in editing and management (independent or NGO-run), it seems likely that the two newsletters will portray different perspectives in their reporting, and will emphasize distinct contents. Ultimately, the two newsletters may seek to serve different functions in their respective media outlet roles.

It is possible that the FilmAid-run newsletter may create some confusion among international readers who look up the Kakuma News expecting to find the independent refugee-run news outlet (KANERE) but encounter the Refugee Newsletter (available for downloading on NGO sites). In the opinion of some refugee individuals, UNHCR officials are aware that international readers may get confused between the two newsletters – thus helping their cause. These individuals regard the FilmAid-run newsletter as a response from UNHCR, who wish to demonstrate support for the freedom of media and expression inside a refugee camp through the well decorated newsletter produced under the guidance of FilmAid. Meanwhile, UNHCR has made no meaningful efforts to support the genuinely independent efforts of the KANERE news project.

Welcoming new voices

According to those of us here at KANERE, the more new voices that emerge, the better that it will shape media environment. There’s room for both the NGO-run and a refugee-run newsletter because each media outlet has a different purpose and function.

Going forward, what kind of journalism do we hope is practiced in Kakuma? Journalism that serves democracy and is genuinely interested in exposing issues of public importance would be the kind of the journalism that deserves protection. It should not matter where it takes place, be it inside a refugee camp, or indeed whether the people who work for it are paid or volunteer!

However, the major challenges for KANERE remain. Notably, KANERE lacks funding and material support simply because it wishes to remain a fully refugee-run as opposed to an NGO-run newsletter. Isn’t KANERE in a right position to be fully funded and equipped by UNHCR or other Aid Agencies in Kakuma?

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7 Responses

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  1. Elias Woday said, on August 30, 2013 at 7:10 am

    First of all I would like to appreciate the writer’s article. Secondly, I want to say something at least in one line, we the readers are really confused by this FilmAid-run news paper. One thing I’ve noticed is the style of its reporting, e.g. there’re more than ten different nationalities/communities that are living in kakuma refugee camp,but their coverage are more focused on two-three communities namely the Sudanese, Somalia and Great Lakes while the same refugees are seen their reporters, this doesn’t sound genuine production! what about the rest of the communities?

    I tried to follow two of its edition and I’ve understood them more than enough. Some propaganda to confuse International readers won’t help as well. I think this article comes just at the right time…for me this is a matter of professionalism unless the NGo-run newsletter is just a business magazine on humanitarianism because NGOs reporting keeps informing both the refugees and donors towards the ‘Good use of refugee funds!’

  2. Edmond said, on September 1, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Hi Elias, I agree with your opinion on this topic. I am writing from German but i was in Kakuma two years ago. I can’t really figure any meaning of NGO Newspaper if it doesn’t encourage refugee’s desired, but instead counter measure the true spirit of journalism! Your project will deserve humanitarian funding itself as its based inside that camp; Keep rolling!

  3. Nandy said, on September 4, 2013 at 1:22 am

    Firstly, your article expresses your views which everyone is entitled to. However, it comes across as petty and every claim you purport is not substantiated. Secondly, calling it an ‘NGO-newsletter’ is a propaganda in itself. Yes it was started by FilmAid, but for the refugees and by the refugees. You should have even done an investigative piece by having one of the students themselves tell you how the newsletter is run. Thirdly, the newsletter yes got funding from humanitarian organizations, same way you say you have been trying to get funding. However, just like borrowing money from a bank for a project it does not come without set guidelines on its usage. In this case, most probably you have not been able to access funding because you want to stay independent which is not a bad thing but in terms of funding it works against you. No one will give you their money to do as you please with it, while it directly reflects on them meaning that they are supporting what you are doing fully with financial backing. Therefore, no NGO will give you money to remain ‘fully independent’ without repercussions on what the funding generates. Thirdly, saying that The Refugee is confusing the international community as well as the refugees themselves is untrue. To begin with, having lived and worked in Kakuma you know too well that refugees are not a forsaken lot who always have problems and sit around all day with nothing to do. The Kakuma Refugee camp is a vibrant place with equally vibrant people who have hopes, dreams and aspirations. These are some of the aspects captured in The Refugee newsletter showing a different perspective of the camp that the international community is often not privy to.

  4. KANERE said, on September 5, 2013 at 10:41 am

    It’s very clear that the humanitarian officials and those influenced by policies always term the refugees true spirit as petty, the less importance! May be, if you could tell us your position, some table dialogue could be useful for this topic?
    On your third point, we haven’t say “Refugees” are confusing the International Community but the NGO-run newsletter is of great confusion in helping their causes which is something you might be proud of, right? Understandably, you deemed to portray that you “Speak Just” authentically as saying; Oh yes, we support the freedom of media inside the refugee camps; that’s already too vague of you Nandy – if your heart beats faster for FilmAid-run newsletter!
    KANERE will remain accurate and ethical. Whether you like it or not, the camp resident’s views is that most of contents of FilmAid newsletter is full of humanitarian propagandist contents, dignity of humanitarianism as usual. Nonetheless, you should know how to shape your thoughts with refugee projects! Refugees are not the escape goats, they’re not the people to be warehoused, feed or schooled, slapped in the face thinking that they just go back to the camp and SLEEP.

    Keep pitching your comments!

  5. Ahmed said, on September 8, 2013 at 11:14 am

    It’s so wearied when NGOs like FilmAid starts their own news magazine and call it the “Refugee Newsletter”, simply because they want to continue trading with refugees.!

  6. KANERE said, on September 8, 2013 at 11:40 am

    The Chief Editor – Design and Layout for the FilmAid’s ‘Refugee Newsletter’ has left Kakuma on what was termed to be an end to the contract! The NGO-run newsletter is available for downloading at this links; http://www.filmaid.org/news-and-media/blog/2013-05-kakuma-unveiling-the-refugee-newsletter – Global readers should be able to find the refugees original thought on Kanere’s website at http://www.kanere.org

    What is the difference between the two newsletters from Kakuma Refugee Camp?

  7. Lazarus said, on June 6, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Illegality: Many of this NGOs are just money makers, they’r making crazy money in the name of “Refugees”. Some of this projects don’t even exist., shame to them! Some projects don’t add valued to refugees in this camps. Some #Donor are sick instead if they don’t know how their funds are being F**K.

    CAll on me!


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