INTERVIEW: “It’s time a science journalism conference came to Africa”

By Adam Alqali

Christophe Bourillon, was at the South Africa Science Forum 2018 in Pretoria, he is the executive director of the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) and his goal is to focus on promoting science journalism; including the role of science journalists as key development players in civil society and democracy worldwide.


African Newspage (AN): You have been the WFSJ’s executive director for some months now. How has the journey been so far?

It has been fantastic; there is a lot of challenges, however. I like the science journalism community, it is diverse, and full of interesting individuals. Science journalists can tell great stories, they are very good at reporting what other people do, but they are not good at telling the world about the importance of their job. So, this is the main goal of the Federation: to raise the profile of science journalists across the world.

For instance, science journalists are doing a very important job in developing economies where policymakers need to make important choices and the choices they make now will have an impact in the future. As a result, they need to make the best decisions and a lot of the decisions are science-based. Therefore, science journalists play a very important role in providing credible information and reporting the facts so that decision makers can make informed decisions.

As an international organization that was set up in 2002, the Federation is fairly new. Up until now, what we have been doing is mainly targeted at the science journalism community: organizing training workshops and producing toolkits to help science journalists to grow and develop their skills. Now, we are going to do more outreach – engage with the public as well as policy makers – to inform them about the role of science journalists in society. There is a lot of science articles being written but there is less science journalists in the world. Our job, therefore, is to help create the enabling economic conditions for science journalists to flourish and develop, as well as get more job opportunities for them.

AN: Science journalism acts as the bridge between science and the public as well as between science and policymaking; how important is the role of science journalism in advancing Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) in Africa?

Africa is very important for us. When I came to this position a few months ago, the first thing I did was to talk to as many members around the world as possible. I spoke to several member associations from Africa including Ghana, Egypt, and Kenya. I met many science journalists and I was amazed at how vibrant, enthusiastic and dynamic the African science journalists community had been. In addition, I found that a lot of science journalists in Africa were working in fairly difficult conditions and they manage to produce high quality science stories. So, they’re doing a great job and since then I felt I needed to visit Africa as soon as possible to meet science journalists.

Every two years, we organize the World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ), in 2019 it is going to be in Lausanne, Switzerland and two years ago it was in San Francisco, USA. I feel it is time for the conference to come to Africa. I don’t have a say, as to where the conference will be the next time, but this is one of the things the Federation must do – ensure the conference comes to Africa one day.

We are a Federation of 59 member associations and through the member associations, we have about 10 000 science journalists worldwide. We will be looking at the membership model we have. I feel we should have a place for news media organizations, not as decision makers, they need to be part of the Federation because they’re important stakeholders – organizations for whom science journalists work. This will help African science journalists by creating more job opportunities for them.

This article is culled from African Newspage – a digital newspaper for development reporting. View the rest of the original piece on their website.