By Jean-Pierre Afadhali

Mobile journalism is growing in Kenya and across Africa allowing media practitioners to more easily tell stories and cover news thanks to the mobile phone’s affordability, portability and convenience.

Emmanuel Yegon, a Kenyan multimedia journalist turned mobile journalism advocate is playing a critical role in training fellow journalists, communicators and other storytellers in Africa to use smartphones with what he calls a “pocket studio” to tell stories that sometimes have been ignored.

According to media experts, mobile journalism is a form of multimedia newsgathering and storytelling that enables journalists to document, edit and share news using smartphones and apps on mobile devices.

In January this year Mobile Journalism Africa, a platform that Yegon co-founded to promote the use of mobile phones in storytelling celebrated a five-year anniversary. According to the platform, many people are embracing storytelling with mobile devices which is also known as Mojo (mobile journalism). In a recent interview, Yegon revealed that his passion for mobile journalism started when he was a final year university student after participating in a training on Mojo organised by some renowned international media outlets including BBC and Reuters on campus.

Now, Yegon is sharing Mojo skills across Africa with various media professionals, storytellers, newsrooms and other organisations that want to tell their visual stories using mobile devices.

“We are now focusing on training as well and that training aspect has grown from just doing training to students in different colleges to also doing training for newsrooms, and even institutions like NGOs and others who are keen on storytelling,” he said in a recent interview. “I think it’s a skill that is necessary for the journalism of the future.”

According to Yegon, there are many more people telling stories compared to a few years back when “We only relied on same main studios for stories and now in instances of breaking news, something is happening, a lot of time we rely on mainstream media footage that has been shot on mobile phones.” The fact is that we have a lot of content creators now getting into the space creating using this device, he added.

Yegon says the phone is a multipurpose device for journalists. “I can tell more stories while you are still working on that one story. It [mobile] is a holistic journalism device that you can also produce your audio stories.”

Yegon stresses the utility of mobile over traditional cameras. “You can take pictures, you can do videos, you can write texts from your phone. I don’t think you can do that in just a single camera, the traditional camera. You can produce different formats at the same time.”

Biko Rading Gerro, a veteran multimedia journalist based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, stated that with new media technology, many journalists are using smartphones to gather news.

“Personally, I use my smartphone to record both audio and video as well as photos. When on deadline, I also use my smartphone to write an article,” Gerro said.

Mobile journalism is also lauded for being used to break news and being fast in gathering information.” If something happens now in Nairobi and you are in that location you can tell that story faster than a journalist who comes from even the standard media group [ a media house] which is not so far away,” elaborated Yegon.

According to Gerro, the other factor that has boosted ‘mobile journalism’ is the low cost of smartphones. He explained that with $100 one can simply acquire a good smartphone that they can use to gather news.

Emmanuel Yegon during training with media practitioners. Picture: Supplied

Media regulator endorses mobile journalism

Additionally, efficiency and convenience are factors journalists and storytellers have attributed to the popularity of mobile journalism. Yegon further explained the phone is a very efficient tool. “The time I am going to tell the story is way shorter compared to traditional TV equipment and I can tell more stories while you are still working on that one,” he explained.

In late 2022, the Media Council of Kenya, the country’s media regulation body, recognised the mobile phone as professional equipment for journalism amid the increasing use of smartphones to cover events and challenges as security organs were not taking seriously smartphones. The media regulator noted quoting a study that that media practice in Kenya “has changed due to the availability and appropriation of digital technologies.”

The body said in a statement at the time “With advancement in technology, mobile phones are now being used to not only to take photos and videos but also record voice clips and undertake activities like broadcasting including live links by media.”

The Media Council advised the public and security officers that journalists should be allowed to gather news using mobile phones. “The council has noted some disputes between a section of security officers and leaders on the use of these gadgets to record and transmit news from public events and wishes to clarify that mobile/smartphones, while in use by professionally trained and accredited journalists and media practitioners should be allowed when needed,” it further stated.

Yegon said it is a very good thing that the media council endorsed the use of mobile phone equipment for journalists, adding journalists have been assaulted for using their smartphones to cover stories.

The co-founder of Mobile Journalism Africa noted he had previously raised concerns with the council and advocated for the use of mobile phones in storytelling and journalism adding it “is a game changer”.

“It is a game changer because, when you have an interview with someone and then you appear with your smartphone filming they do not take you seriously.” Yegon added, “We welcome that development with both hands because it is going to keep journalists safe from any form of assault and it also going to help inform the public.”

Gerro further noted that the majority of his colleagues prefer using mobile devices to cover events. “Majority of my colleagues would prefer to have a smartphone than carry the big cameras at a media event.” He noted adding that it’s easy to use a smartphone and can easily link back to the studio in the event when it’s a live media briefing or any occasion.

Growing network in Africa

Yvone Kawira, a journalist based in Nairobi with an online news outlet, said that in addition to calling sources, she can be accessing the back-end to update stories or record audio in an interview, but for good quality videos and photos she goes the traditional camera. “Sometimes I do filming or photography but for good quality, I go with a photographer.” She stated adding phone is also mainly used by the media outlet’s social media manager.

Despite the popularity of mobile phones in storytelling, the quality of traditional video and photography equipment is still higher than smartphones.

Agha Khan University, Graduate Media and Communication School (GSMC) in Kenya is one of the institutions that have played a key role in promoting mobile video journalism by providing relevant professional training programmes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Alykhan Peermohamed, head of training at GSMC said in an interview that the institution was responding to the disruptions in the media. “Given the various disruptions plaguing the media, it was clear that approaches to storytelling have changed rapidly and we needed to enable journalists to adapt and adopt these new technologies.”

Peermohamed explained that leveraging journalists’ smartphones and a number of additional tools was one way to help media practitioners adopt new technologies in their work.

One of GSMC’s flagship projects was a partnership with the Facebook Journalism Project in 2019/2020 to establish a mobile video journalism fellowship in Kenya. According to the school, the programme inspired current Mojo courses.

The video journalism fellowship was a pilot project designed to equip Kenyan newsrooms with new digital media resources while training digital, mobile and video storytellers for six months through real-life immersion.

“The programme inspired other fellowships that GSMC offers today and the Facebook Journalism Project has continued to offer similar pilot programmes in other countries across the globe,” further said Peermohamed.

According to Mobile Journalism Africa, the network of mobile journalists is growing in Africa like in Sierra Leone and Ghana. This was mainly done through training and collaboration.

For instance, we have people who have since the time they were employed as journalists have just been practicing mobile journalism, revealed Yegon adding his team has worked with mobile journalists in Zimbabwe and Ghana.

Reporting supported by a micro-grant from Jamlab

Want to stay up to date with the latest journalism and media innovation news from the African continent? Subscribe to our newsletter.


How storytellers in Uganda, Sierra Leone and Kenya are using mobile journalism to tell compelling stories


How Nigeria’s Titilope Fadare is training peers in mobile journalism

Mobile journalism: Why every story matters



Everything you need to know regarding journalism and media innovation in Africa – fortnightly in your inbox.