Baseline survey of HIV and AIDS news coverage in the Mozambican press
Maputo, April 2010 – In order to improve the quality of the information around HIV and AIDS in Mozambique, a partnership between the Brazilian AIDS News Agency (Agência de Notícias de Resposta à SIDA), UNAIDS and the Media Institute of Southern Africa/MISA-Mozambique resulted in the creation of a News Agency specialised in HIV and AIDS.
The main task of the Agency is to feed journalists with up-to-date information, interviews, reportage on HIV and AIDS through an internet page and to undertake trainings and regular meetings with journalists.
Quality news coverage on HIV and AIDS can help political and economic leaders learn about the opinions and perspectives surrounding the issue. Newspaper coverage influences leaders as they develop policies, programmes and legislation, by allowing them to view and understand how peers and experts approach the issue of HIV and Aids.
Additionally, newspapers often entail snowball effects by setting agendas for other media outlets such as the radio, television, and the Internet, and help raise awareness of issues within communities.
A baseline survey, supported by UNICEF as part of a long term partnership with MISA, was developed on the news coverage of HIV and AIDS related issues by the Mozambican press. A subsequent survey to be undertaken in 2011 will evaluate the initial impact of the Agency on the news coverage of HIV and Aids.
The baseline survey combines techniques of quantitative and qualitative analysis of articles and related photographs published in seven - three daily and four weekly - newspapers with national distribution in Mozambique, namely (i) Diário de Moçambique, (ii) Notícias, (iii) O País, (iv) Domingo, (v) Magazine Independente, (vi) Savana and (vii) Zambeze. The period of analysis was six months, from November 2008 to April 2009.
Persistence of stereotypes and moral judgments: the Mozambican press continues to heavily use metaphorical expressions around HIV and Aids, which carry stereotypes and imply a moral discourse. These biases and judgements have by and large disappeared from the programmatic and scientific discourse.
Limited coverage of HIV and Aids related-events and facts: The distribution of articles on HIV and AIDS during the period reviewed (which shows a peak in December around World Aids Day), combined with the types of articles published (primarily news), shows that the coverage of HIV and AIDS in the Mozambican press is events-based (i.e. linked to commemorative days, seminars, workshops, marches, etc.) rather than associated with a problem that attracts journalists and motivates them to undertake in-depth analyses on a regular basis, thereby contributing to voicing and challenging the problem.
HIV related issues are treated superficiality and articles focus on epidemiological data: Journalists face difficulties in undertaking in depth analysis on HIV and Aids related issues, which are by nature complex and multifaceted. A comprehensive analysis requires that journalists question information and check the various sources in order to adequately scrutinise all aspects of the problem.
The baseline survey indicates that journalists do use a variety of sources but that the data used is mostly related to the incidence, prevalence and other HIV related statistics. Articles lack any sort of analysis to look beyond and understand what is behind these epidemiological numbers.
Institutional and official sources are quoted predominantly while vulnerable groups are "silent": Among the various sources used in the Mozambican press, the voices of Government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are predominant. Main focus is placed on the discourse of the "authority" and "competent expert".
Specific vulnerable groups such as People Living with HIV and AIDS young people, children, sex workers, are “silent”. In addition to not appearing as informants, these groups are largely absent as protagonists of HIV and Aids related articles, therefore reducing the diversity of sources and views in the Mozambican press.