In view of the growing interest in the Mozambique's booming extractive industries, the Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) is urging the media in the country to carry out more investigative and in-depth reporting on the sector, and to give a greater voice to the poor and marginalised.
Mozambique is now viewed as a country that is well-endowed in terms of strategic natural resources with gas and coal topping the list of major discoveries that are currently being exploited. Other important minerals include gold and titanium-bearing mineral sands.
The existence of these minerals - coupled with growing international demand for them - has attracted plenty of multinational companies eager to benefit from Mozambique's natural wealth. And they usually do not have to worry too much about the people since few Mozambicans have access to accurate news and information about the extractive industries. For instance, journalists have limited resources and lack the training and capacity to interpret data and financial reports. They also have limited tools to research stories in depth and verify information and so the reporting becomes more descriptive rather than investigative.
Another challenge is that the mainstream media houses and professional journalists are concentrated in the capital, Maputo, and constrained by economic and political forces from doing much work in the field.
To try and counter some of these challenges, PSAf is implementing a project to enhance investigative reporting on extractive industries in Mozambique, which aims to boost transparency and accountability and increase the capacity of the mainstream media to research and report on issues around extractive industries. Eventually, this will increase information about the sector and improve natural resource management in Mozambique - as well as focus more attention on the plight of people affected by the exploitation of the country's natural resources.
In November 2012, PSAf conducted a rapid assessment on the extractive industries, demonstrated that there is a great need to support investigative journalism in relation to this critical sector.
Through the Monitoring Extractive Industries Project, which is funded by the Mozambique Civil Society Support Mechanism (MASC), PSAf is identifying and profiling the extractive industries in Mozambique, and their existing and potential impacts on the lives of local people - and whether there has been any compensation to affected communities or any attempts to mitigate the impact of extractive work.
In addition to this project, PSAf is also launching another project to support community media to effectively engage poor and marginalised communities in dialogue around extractive industries and their impact on people's lives. Under this new project - which is funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) - poor communities will have an opportunity to contribute to the dialogue around this important issue and call for action to redress the side-effects where relevant. Indeed, an OSISA off-shoot - the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) - has already aired the voices and grievances of people affected by the massive coal mines in Tete province in the publication Coal versus Communities: Exposing poor practices by VALE and Rio Tinto.
PSAf will work with selected community media institutions in Mozambique to create platforms for debate on this subject and other development issues.