ATAF Workshop Participants Push for Advance Training

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(From Left) FrontPage Africa’s Lennart Dodoo, Daily Observer’s Joaquin Sendolo and LRA’s Communications, Media and Public Affairs Manager D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh successfully represented Liberia under the auspices of the LRA

Participating journalists from various African countries in the just ended Media Engagement Workshop organized by the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) have with one accord suggested to ATAF to liaise with universities or colleges to introduce a specialized training in tax and business reporting.

The suggestion was put forth on March 28 when journalists, communication officers and ATAF’s high-level staffs engaged in discussions as to what best can be done to propagate information about taxation more effectively to the public.

The journalists in separate views alluded that the areas of tax and business have special jargons and concepts that journalists need to know before informing their audiences, and without  specialized training in business and tax reporting in journalism, it will be challenging for reporters to properly inform their audiences.

The African Journalists suggested that  ATAF itself can either create a program to train business and economic reporters in taxation or should collaborate with some universities to mainstream theoretical concepts of taxation in their Mass Communication curriculum on Business and Tax Reporting.

Some participants observed that the world has become driven more by business than by politics, and as such it is essential that Mass Communication Departments at colleges and universities design programs that will highlight specialized reporting on taxation and related specialized areas.

Adelaide Changole, a Kenyan journalist working for Bloomberg News emphasized that not many journalists are acquainted with jargons in business and taxation, and therefore ATAF should conduct training for those reporting in business and taxation.

“Not many journalists are specialized in a particular area of reporting except assigning them to beats, and in order for them to report effectively on taxation and business, ATAF and revenue authorities should either conduct training or liaise with universities in our various countries to introduce a specialized reporting program in business and taxation,” Changole said.

Christy Cole, a journalist working for the Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC) Television in West Africa, noted that taxation is a tough area of reporting because it has jargons that lack synonyms which reporters could use to explain to their audiences.

“How can one who does not understand those jargons enable his/her audiences to obtain a clear picture of what is being reported? This is a tough area of reporting and reporters need training in it,” said Christy.

A journalist specializing in an area of reporting in a university is still a new phenomenon in Liberia. Journalists’ areas of reporting are determined by their editors in sharing beats. Universities including the University of Liberia,  for instance, teach only the basic fundamentals of Journalism and Public Relations without training in specific areas of reporting such as business, agriculture, economics, sports etc.

In response to the request, ATAF’s Media & Communications Manager, Romeo Nkoulou Ella acknowledged that it was a good suggestion, but ATAF cannot do anything that is beyond its reach.

He said ATAF relies on donor funding to operate, and anything short of its proposal cannot be supported by the donors. Nevertheless, he said, “We will see what to do in the future about that, but we cannot assure you because this is not contained in our proposals.”

Considering the lack of curricular activities for specialized reporting areas in journalism at universities in Liberia, the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) says it has reached a consensus with the African Methodist Episcopal University to introduce the teaching of the Liberian Revenue Code.

According to LRA Media & Communications Director D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh, this will form part of that university’s curriculum this September, but he could not state whether it is restricted to students studying journalism.

The ATAF Media Engagement Workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa which ran from March 26 to 28, 2018 brought together 75 participants including journalists and revenue authorities’ communications officers.

Journalists and communication officers were sorted out by West, East, Southern Africa and islands including Madagascar and Mauritius.

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