The Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the United States (AFPC-USA) provides annual scholarships to foreign journalists who are completing their Master’s level studies in a U.S.-based academic institution.

Report by: Muhammad Moazzam ALi

“My scholarship from the AFPC is a motivation and an encouragement award

Idris Muktar is a master’s student at U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Prior to graduate school, he worked as a journalist across Africa for DW, CNN, among other national, regional and international news outlets. In 2021, he received an Annual Scholarship Award from the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the USA. Specifically, he reported on prominent issues across the continent including the 2015 President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya, Pope Francis’s maiden visit to Africa, the 2019 South African elections. He was the lead producer in Addis Ababa for CNN’s coverage of the 2019 crashing of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 that killed 157 people. At Berkeley, he is looking to advance his years of field experience in journalism and sharpen investigative reporting skills. Idris is a MasterCard Foundation Scholar and a 2021 Human Righters Center at Berkeley Fellow.

What was the primary reason you chose to pursue your master’s studies in the United States as a foreign journalist?

The United States is known for its leadership in press freedom. With a developed mass media in the world, it was ideal for me to come, especially to UC Berkeley, not only because I would be steering this leadership back at home but also, I would be a part of a diverse environment that consistently encourages growth backed by ample resources for its scholars to tread new paths in the journalism field.

You were recently awarded a scholarship from the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the United States. How did you feel about this recognition?

It really means a lot, it’s a motivation and an encouragement award. Especially to me, largely because a lot of young people get into journalism to cause change for good, for the betterment of our society or that small community that we come in contact with. This award is a pat on the back, it’s a clap for those moments where writer’s block hits hard or sources don’t come back.

As a journalist, how do you expect your studies and the support from the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the United States to help you advance your career?

I believe that the J school at UC Berkeley as well as the mentorship and support from the AFPC goes a long way to ensure that I continue to produce impactful work. I have always been passionate about refugee and human rights issues and stories. Therefore, mastering the art of storytelling would come in handy when sharing the story of the destitute and those pushed to the edge as a result of conflicts around the world.

What made you decide to become a journalist? How do you hope to make an impact in the journalism field of your country of origin?

As a youngster, I saw what journalism could do for my community. Korogocho, Nairobi’s undercity, is a place I called home but also a crime haven and the Kenyan government’s forgotten project. Here, respect for human rights was just a theory as people lived in shacks or dilapidated makeshift structures that we called home. It wasn’t until an issue was reported in the local newspaper- Daily Nation- that you would see a pseudo response from the government or see police patrolling the neighborhood where women were mugged in daylight or cartels hoarded water. It is for this reason and for the immediate impact that I wanted to be a journalist. To give a voice or simplify to amplify. For the transformative impact on people’s lives.

As a foreign journalist, what defines your mission? 

The deep urge to stand by what is right and effect change by providing information that is humanly impartial.

What do you think is the greatest threat to journalism today?

The biggest threat to journalism today is the lack of financial support for the craft. This has demoralized a lot of journalists and eventually led to shortcut journalism which has, in turn, propagated clickbait and misinformation. Misinformation, in this age of technology, spreads faster than wildfire. Therefore, it becomes the challenge of my generation to invest in journalists and journalism, so as to be a force for good.

 What is the state of press freedom in your country of origin and how do you hope that your work will encourage more people to access independent and credible information?

Press freedom in Kenya, my home country, is like a sick person on his deathbed. Kenya ranks 102 on the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. Journalists around the country continue to face intimidation, physical or online harassment, surveillance, disappearance, threats, assaults, and lack of access to public facilities, authorities, or data. There is nothing like a FOIA request for data or documents.

As much as the internet has become a curse, it’s equally beneficial to our work and made news consumption easier. I believe in good old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting. If we, I included, demand an endeavor for the development of impartial reporting and objective journalism that holds the powerful accountable and forces the craft to be a force for good, then we will see a return of the good old days where journalism was respected and treated in a holistic way. That is my hope.

Report by: Muhammad Moazzam Ali

“AFPC’s support is crucial to building and advancing my career in the U.S.”

sabella Zavarise is a Canadian journalist pursuing her M.A. at The University of Southern California where she’s focusing on business and data journalism. In 2021, she received an Annual Scholarship Award from the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the USA. She previously worked for The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a video journalist and radio producer, covering stories about housing insecurity and sexual assault. Her work has appeared regionally and nationally, and one of her radio documentaries about an Indigenous burlesque group won the CBC’s Alexis Mazurin award. She has also worked as a podcast producer. Her goal as a journalist is to think critically about stories and how to tell them better.

What was the primary reason you chose to pursue your master’s studies in the United States as a foreign journalist?

The U.S. has some of the best journalism programs in North America. Through my studies, I wanted to gain experience reporting in another country to expand my worldview. I also wanted to build upon my journalistic skills and knew The University of Southern California would be the best place for me to do that.

You were recently awarded a scholarship from the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the United States. How did you feel about this recognition? 

It was an honor to receive this award. There are many talented foreign journalists studying in the U.S. and I am grateful to be recognized and welcomed into this community.

As a journalist, how do you expect your studies and the support from the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the United States to help you advance your career?

This program is helping me gain experience in two challenging fields I haven’t had the chance to delve into previously: business reporting and data journalism. My goal upon graduation is to work as a reporter in the U.S. and I believe this program will provide me with the tools and network to do that. The support from the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents is crucial to building and advancing my career in the U.S. Moving to a new country can be challenging and it’s comforting to know an organization like this exists and is here to advocate for its members.

What made you decide to become a journalist? How do you hope to make an impact in the journalism field of your country of origin?

I always knew I wanted to become a journalist because I wanted to work in a field that was challenging and had the opportunity to have influence in people’s lives. Having the ability to make change through stories seemed like the best way to do that.

I hope to make an impact in journalism in Canada by focusing on stories that uplift people and challenge authority.

As a foreign journalist, what defines your mission? 

What defines my mission is telling empathetic, nuanced stories that respect the communities they reflect.

What do you think is the greatest threat to journalism today?

Misinformation and disinformation. The past year and a half have been difficult for journalism. It’s become even more important for journalists to provide critical analysis and challenge dangerous narratives.

What is the state of press freedom in your country of origin and how do you hope that your work will encourage more people to access independent and credible information? 

In 2021, Canada ranked 14 out of 180 nations on the World Press Freedom Index.

According to The Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University, freedom of the press is in “serious jeopardy” due to contracting newsrooms, weak access-to-information laws, and the effects of mass surveillance. The arrest of Canadian journalists is also a continuous issue in the country. Journalists like Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano were recently arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police while covering a story about Indigenous land defenders opposing a pipeline project in Northern British Columbia. Many people believe journalists are protected in Canada but there are numerous instances of the press being repressed.

I hope my work will encourage people to see the benefit of investing in local newsrooms or independent outlets. I also hope reading good journalism inspires people to seek out credible sources of information.






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