New Knight International Fellows Focus on Digital Media Technology

Photo: Knight International Journalism Fellow Shu Choudhary leads a session.

Washington, D.C.  – Six new Knight International Journalism Fellows will help spread media innovation in developing countries. They’ll use new digital tools to increase access to public information in India, establish investigative teams in the Middle East, track corruption in Panama, launch the first broadcast training center in Peru, and improve coverage of health and poverty issues in Africa. 

They are the first to be named under a new three-year, $6 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) administers the Knight International Journalism Fellowships.

This year’s Fellows come from France, India, Lebanon, Mexico, the United States and Zambia. Each is fluent in the language of the host country. Fellows will spend at least a year on the following projects:

India: Revealing Government Data on New Web site
Kannaiah Venkatesh of India will create the country’s first Web site of previously unreported government data. He will train journalists to use this data for stories. Venkatesh also will form an online news association to promote greater government transparency.

Venkatesh is a senior editor who has worked at a variety of news agencies and print and online publications including United News of India, The Financial Express, and AOL India.

Middle East: Launching New Investigative Reporting Teams
Donna Abu-Nasr of Lebanon will establish investigative reporting units at five news organizations in the Middle East. The teams will provide in-depth coverage of health, environmental and social issues rarely covered by the media now. She will be based at the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism in Amman, Jordan.

Abu-Nasr has worked in the region for the Associated Press since 1987. Most recently, she served as the AP’s first bureau chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Panama: Using Crowd-sourcing to Fight Corruption
Jorge Luis Sierra of Mexico will launch a crowd-sourcing project to digitally track crime and corruption in Panama. Teaming up with Transparency International Panama, Sierra will develop a Web site that will map real-time incidents of corruption and crime sent in by ordinary Panamanians via text messages and e-mails. Major news organizations have agreed to use the Web site to analyze trends and produce in-depth reports. Sierra will work with crowd-sourcing pioneers Ushahidi and eMoksha to create the site.

Sierra is an award-winning investigative journalist who has covered drug trafficking, organized crime, and gangs along the U.S.-Mexican border. He has worked for Mexico’s El Universal and La Voz de Houston, the Spanish-language publication of the Houston Chronicle.

Peru: Creating the First Broadcast Training Center
Patricio Espinoza of the United States will create Peru’s first broadcast journalism training center. The goal is to improve political coverage, starting with the country’s regional and presidential elections in 2010 and 2011. Working with local television stations, Espinoza will train Peruvian TV journalists to become trainers themselves. He will then oversee their work as they help journalists cover the issues and candidates.

Espinoza has worked for more than two decades as a news director, producer, correspondent and anchor at various U.S. television stations. He most recently freelanced for ABC News, Fox News and National Public Radio.

Senegal: Using Mobile Phones to Deepen Coverage of Poverty Issues 
Manuela Huyghues Despointes of France will help Senegalese journalists to better cover issues such as agriculture, microfinance, water and sanitation. Despointes will work with L’Observateur newspaper and its sister radio station RFM, founded by singer Youssou N’Dour. She will set up a new network of citizen journalists using mobile technology to provide urban news outlets with information from rural areas.

Despointes is an experienced media trainer in Africa. She most recently oversaw an ICFJ project training journalists in Guinea. Previously, she worked as a print and radio journalist in France, Argentina and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despointes’ Fellowship is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Zambia: Expanding New Health Journalism Association
Zarina Geloo of Zambia will help journalists improve coverage of health issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and the general state of medical care. She will also expand Zambia’s new association of health journalists, co-founded by departing Knight Fellow Antigone Barton. Geloo will forge links with similar health journalism organizations in Africa, many of them launched by Knight Fellows.

Geloo has worked as a journalist for more than 20 years in Zambia and France. She specializes  in health reporting. Most recently she completed a two-year project to get more than 20 media houses in Zambia to develop HIV/AIDS policies. Geloo’s Fellowship is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“These Fellows will break ground by using digital technology to take investigative journalism to new levels,” said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “They will serve as true pioneers in ensuring greater transparency and accountability.”

The Fellows will spend a week in Washington, D.C., in a training program to prepare for their assignments.
The Knight International Journalism Fellowships program is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with additional funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To become a Fellow or to propose new projects or partnerships, please visit the Knight International Journalism Fellowships Web site:

The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit, professional organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, ICFJ has worked directly with more than 55,000 journalists from 176 countries. ICFJ offers hands-on training workshops, seminars, fellowships and international exchanges to journalists and media managers around the globe. For more information, visit

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit


ICFJ: Dawn Arteaga, communications director, +1.202.737.3700; [email protected]

Knight Foundation: Marc Fest, vice president of communications, +1.305.908.2677, [email protected]