International reporters

Idaho state Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, left, meets with a group of journalists from all over the world on Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Idaho Capitol.

It's not every day that journalists from Angola, Costa Rica, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore and Tanzania are checking out Idaho’s state Capitol, meeting with student journalists at Boise State, stopping by Idaho Public Television and meeting with various Idahoans. But it’s happening this week, as the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program brought the group to Boise, after trips to Washington, D.C. and Tampa, Fla., and before a visit to Boston.

They’re part of a group of nearly two dozen international journalists from around the world on an Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists tour entitled, “Media Responsibility in an Age of Disinformation.” The group was together for most of its tour, but split into three parts to visit a “small city,” and Boise was their small city destination.

That’s why Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, was quizzing the journalists on Monday about whether they have public records laws in their home countries that allow them to request and receive copies of public documents, like we have in Idaho. Wintrow noted that all her written records, including emails and texts, are public records.

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“That is America,” Alpha Abdalah Wawa said to laughter from the rest of the group. He’s a reporter, newscaster and producer for the Tanzania Broadcasting Corp., an independent media outlet that focuses on promoting government accountability.

“In my country, politicians would give you stories that they want you to talk about,” he said. “It’s sometimes hard to access the information.”

The Rwandan genocide in 1994 aroused grave concerns throughout the region about lack of access to government information, he said, as residents weren’t notified of what was happening. As a result, his country and others in the region have passed some laws, but it’s still “not easy” to access government information. You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Wednesday’s Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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