The Social Accountability Media Initiative (SAMI), an innovative advocacy communications effort launched by the Global Partnership for Social Accountability and the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC) in Nairobi, will be highlighted at a panel at the 2018 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn this week.

“Voice Matters: Trust, but Verify!” is the theme for the panel presented by GPSA partner SAMI at the forum, the largest global media and development conference, which this year will see over 2,300 journalists, media development, press freedom, and governmental participants gather for three days  from June 11th to June 13th.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, SAMI Director Thomas R. Lansner  observes that people “suffering from the practical impact of inequalities are society’s least powerful: those lacking economic and political clout to make their voices heard.”

The panel will explore experiences and discuss practical challenges that may help or hinder efforts to expand media coverage of inequality and social accountability issues.   Empowering people to make their voices heard to help monitor and improve governmental performance is a key challenge for equitable and sustainable development.  Building social accountability is an explicit effort to improve service delivery to the world’s poorest and most marginalized.

Joining Lansner on the panel are Nancy Booker, assistant professor at the Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC) in Nairobi, which developed the SAMI project, and Bertha Phiri, programme officer of GPSA partner Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN).

MEJN has just completed two rounds of workshops for over 60 community radio journalists in Malawi on covering social accountability issues, under a SAMI grant.

 “We found that community radio journalists are very close to the people and understand their most pressing problems,” MEJN’s Phiri notes. “They are very eager to build skills to gather evidence and tell stories that concern communities in which they are deeply embedded, and this will help them do their work more effectively.”

“Reaching people at the grass roots to encourage them to voice their demands building media awareness and skills that do more than just impart information,” adds GSMC Assistant Professor Booker, “Community media are the best means to draw information and genuinely engage audiences because they speak the language of the people.”

GPSA Program Manager Jeff Thindwa notes that the SAMI project is an example of GPSA’s collaborative approach to its work, saying, “GPSA and its partners are advancing efforts to leverage the skills and commitment of a wide variety of stakeholders that share our vision that listening to people’s voices is essential to achieving equitable and inclusive development.”

“Being an ‘ally’ does not necessarily mean becoming an advocate,” Lansner stresses. “We cannot ask media to act merely as a mouthpiece for any group; it is best for media workers to see and assess situations themselves. Media can build trust through CSO collaboration, but must always verify, as well.”

Since its inception in 2012, the GPSA has been striving to empower citizens’ by making their voices heard and encouraging governments to respond effectively to their call. The belief that improved advocacy communication skills are essential to fighting inequality and corruption spurred the launch of the SAMI project by GSMC in February 2015, with support from the Aga Khan Foundation.


Read the full interview with Thomas Lansner here.


Bertha Phiri

Programme officer of GPSA partner MEJN

Thomas Lansner

SAMI Director

Nancy Booker

Assistant professor at the Aga Khan University GSMC