Awareness-raising or a Glossy marketing brochure: what do you expect from Zimbabwean reports on Ukraine and Sri Lanka-set stories penned by an Ukrainian travel writer?

by Andy Kozlov

Flag Pins: Sri Lanka-Ukraine
Flag Pins: Sri Lanka-Ukraine

Talk of multiculturalism, globalization or South-South cooperation and what do you get? More than many signs that there is still a lot to be done in educating truly global citizens of the world.

In practical terms, we can loom at two recent examples of publications that aim at being a well-informed report by a writer from one developing nation about a tourism destination that is another developing nation.

Melissa Mpofu of the NewsDay in Zimbabwe writes about a visit of an Ukrainian delegation to her Southern African country to explore business opportunities in the land of the Matopos and Victoria Falls. The excitement I got from reading the article’s title suddenly fades out the moment my eyes reach the names of the Ukrainian companies: KyivskRus Travel Agency, Mirturizina Travel Magazine. Excuse me?! These names are non-existent! What is wrong here? The Zimbabwean reporter confused the spelling of the Russian words. What is even sadder is that Ukrainian leading English-language newspaper Kyiv Post republished part of the original Zimbabwean story without correcting the spelling.

Around this time, Sandy Vadi, a Sri Lankan Toronto-based expat urged the Ukrainian paper and “all the travel writers.. to raise awareness of not just the beaches and billboards [of the Teardrop island and] look beyond the glossy marketing brochures provided by the travel agents.” The reason? His was a letter in reaction to “Exploring Sri Lanka, island of serendipity,” an article that “ignores the ongoing military oppression and racial discrimination to.. communities of Sri Lanka and sporadic outbursts of politically motivated violence and religious intolerance reported on a daily basis.”

In her narrative emblematic of superficial one-dimensional reporting charachterizing the challenges South-South communications face on a daily basis, Oksana Faryna, the writer behind the travel story, chose “Tangalle as a typical city with streets full of people where, about one year ago, a Red Cross worker and British tourist Khuram Shaikh was stabbed to death and his Russian girlfriend Alexandra was sexually assaulted and left badly injured by eight men.”

What do you think is needed for travel writers from countries like Zimbabwe and Ukraine to be more aware of the multiple dimensions to the stories they carve out? Is quality journalism based on professional preliminary research a matter of self-improvement or a responsibility of a media outlet? Should papers like Kyiv Post and NewsDay be critized for getting the majority world nations wrong? Who would be responsible for such criticism? What would be the goals of the critique? What is the role of international organizations like the United Nations in getting local media interested in raising awareness about social conditions in other developing nations? How can destination marketing be inspired and informed by the development communication principles?

See related reading

On international reporting

My Zimbabwe Story campaign: Culture Fund partners with UNDP to germinate untold experiences/aspirations, improve local and international images of the Southern African nation

The challenges of reporting on sustainable development in Ukraine. What is this ‘sustainable development,’ by the way?

These reporters and media execs shape English-language reader-s perception of Ukraine

Sri Lankans cover Zimbabwean engineer helping Mongolians in sustainable Ninja-Mining, while Estonians document Eastern Ukrainian kids digging for coal

Zimbabwe Tourism Trends and Prospects

The 10 Commandments of Development Communication

How culture contributes to development: an UNESCO indicator suite

Whose premise: UNESCO-Harare or UNESCO-Paris?

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