Podcasts are a powerful medium not just for storytelling and entertainment, but for investigative journalism too. This is especially true in Africa, where access to information and media freedom are often limited.
Investigative Journalism exposes corruption, human rights violations, environmental issues, and other matters of public interest. This kind of journalism can have a significant impact on society; it holds the powerful accountable for their actions, raises awareness, and sparks change.
Here’s how podcasts are helping the growth of investigative journalism in Africa, and the challenges and opportunities these podcasts currently face.
The Growth of Investigative Journalism Podcasts in Africa
The first non-profit organization for investigative journalism in Africa was established over a decade ago. Since then, reports have shown that investigative journalism organizations have emerged in more than 20 countries across the continent.
This style of journalism has the power to set the news agenda by covering issues neglected by traditional media. As such, this medium has been able to expose ‘the darker and the hidden side’ of some African countries.
Digital media, like podcasts, have changed the African investigative journalism scene. Over the years, podcasting in Africa has grown a lot with the help of podcast production and donor funding centers. Today, journalists and media companies are using podcasts as a platform to expose crime, injustice, abuse, and social issues from the ground up.
But this type of podcasting is not without its challenges…
Challenges Facing African Investigative Journalism
Investigative Journalism is a difficult and risky venture. The 2022 State of Media Freedom and Safety of Journalists in Africa Report shows that many African countries rank low in media freedom and the safety of journalists. Journalists face threats, harassment, censorship, and legal problems from governments, companies, and other actors who want to silence them.
Investigative journalism is also often expensive and time-consuming. In Africa, many media outlets struggle to support this kind of journalism. And while donor-funded centers fill in the gap, they face challenges in finding accurate data and funds. They also face challenges in keeping journalists safe while carrying out their work.
African podcasts come with their own general growth challenges, like lack of financial support and limited internet access. These challenges apply to investigative journalism shows as much as they do to any other topic or niche.
Opportunities for African Investigative Journalism
Despite these challenges, podcasts have proven an effective medium for investigative journalism in Africa. They also offer a solution to some of the biggest challenges investigative journalists currently face on the continent.
For instance, podcasts are relatively cheap and easy to produce compared to other forms of media. To create a podcast, a journalist only needs a recording device and an internet connection. This removes the barrier of needing expensive equipment to carry out their reporting.
Podcasts also allow journalists to bypass much of the censorship and gatekeeping that traditional African media face. Journalists can freely engage their audiences with nuanced, unreserved, truthful and compelling storytelling.
Podcasts are also an easy way to reach audiences through online platforms directly. This means journalists can reach wider audiences, and listeners can access the content anonymously.
Podcasts enhance journalists’ credibility by reporting on matters not covered by traditional media. They give audiences better access to information, which improves public awareness of important topics, empowers listeners and sparks debate. As a result, podcasts can create communities of informed and active Africans.
3 Investigative Journalism Podcasts in Africa
So with all this in mind, here are three African investigative podcasts you should consider subscribing to:
Africa Eye is a BBC TV production that’s also available as a podcast. A team of undercover African journalists is behind the production, and they investigate various topics like Wildlife trafficking, fake news, and sexual harassment.
The production team’s lives are often at risk, so they’re forced to use hidden cameras for reportage. Africa Eye is a podcast that empowers listeners to make informed decisions by giving factual and reliable information.
Sound Africa Podcast
Sound Africa is an independent podcast collective. This collective produces stories that challenge stereotypes and explore the diversity and complexity of Africa.
Sound Africa reports on Africa’s history, politics, culture and identity using narrative and creative methods. The podcast also collaborates with local media outlets to amplify African journalists and storytellers’ reports.
Volume is a podcast production company with investigative units and training centers focused on podcasting and audio journalism. One of these units is Alibi Investigations; the organization offers support, mentoring, and training to working African investigative journalists.
Alibi collaborates with these journalists to produce different podcast series. The unit also offers paid training in investigative podcasting to newsrooms across Africa.
So far, Volume Africa has produced over 20 podcast series on misinformation, corruption, crime, digital rights, health justice, culture, etc. These include Alibi, South Africa’s first investigative limited series podcast, and Too Many Enemies, an investigative journey into why Wandile Bozwana was killed, who organized the hit, and who ultimately was responsible for the murder.
The Future of Investigative Journalism Podcasts in Africa
Podcasts and investigative journalism complement each other in quality and goals. They showcase their power in reporting, information sharing, and bringing about social change. Podcasts’ ability to let journalists investigate and produce gripping stories shows how they amplify African voices and perspectives. This is especially true for sidelined yet vital issues that affect Africans. Podcasts have also changed how audiences consume investigative stories because listeners can easily access them. On top of that, audiences engage more deeply with the stories through voices, emotions, and sounds of the people involved.
Podcasts are also accessed at any time and anywhere via the internet. And this reduces the risk of creators being censored or stopped from telling the truth.
Investigative podcasts are essential and have a bright future in the African media industry. They enhance journalists’ ability to uncover corruption, hold governments responsible, and give a voice to marginalized groups.
Indie podcasters worldwide can help these podcasts thrive by supporting and protecting the open podcasting ecosystem. The more some larger companies try to build their own walled-off versions of “podcasting”, the easier it will be to block, censor, or control a population’s content. And that only serves to put the power back into the hands of those who want to silence others. It’s important that this isn’t allowed to happen.