African journalists observe elections in Nevada
As voter after voter walked into the Reno High School gym on election day, a group of nine journalists sat on the bleachers and watched the American election process at work. But these journalists are unique.
"From what I see, I am in admiration of what is being done," a journalist named Evelyn said.
Evelyn, along with the 8 others in her group don't have the same rights as American journalists or voters. That's because they are from various African countries, including Chad and Niger. They are here in Reno to learn more about American politics and journalism.
"I came to the United States to observe the election and I find it very interesting," Evelyn said, "Very different from what is happening in our country."
These journalists were invited here by the U.S. Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program. Reno was chosen as their stop because of our diversity.
"We’re the Biggest Little City in the World so people can come here, feel like they’re in a great, warm, receptive community, get a good sense of things, but not be overwhelmed like a New York City or a San Francisco," said Michael Graf, program coordinator for the International Visitor Programs at the University of Nevada, Reno. "They can get in touch with the people and have access to our politicians."
This area was also chosen because of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the university. During their time, they will learn from faculty at the school, and speak with political leaders. But they came specifically during elections to see how journalism and politics coexist during an election.
"Generally, journalists across the world are very limited as far as what access they have whereas our city officials are always open, our senators and governor very receptive," Graf said. "Other countries, it’s not like that. It’s very closed door.
It’s nice for them to see a healthy, thriving battleground state in Nevada during our time of election."
That freedom is something these journalists admire.
"You can dream," Evelyn said. "When you are a journalist, you can write without any political interference."
As Nevadans cast their votes yesterday, this group said they were in awe of the differences between elections here and back in their countries.
"What I think is interesting is everything is electronic," Samira Samou, a journalist from Niger said. "In our country, everything is on paper. So when somebody wants to corrupt, he came [sic] outside and buy tickets from person who come [sic] for voting."
The journalists also said they were surprised by how calm many of the voters seemed to be during an election that proved to be very contentious.
"Every state has the right to choose the way they want to elect [sic]," Samou said. "In the same time, we think it’s the population who take most of the process of the election."
With the lessons they learned, these journalists will head home and strive to make changes in their own countries.
"In our country, it is the government who organize the election," Samou said. "And the government put in at the same time a system that manage [sic] how the election end and the government can be sure who is on their side. In your country it is not like that."
"Whether people understand it fully or not, America’s foreign policy is so pervasive and influential in a positive way in other countries that our president affects those countries versus their presidents affecting our countries," Graf said. "So the whole world is in tune with what's happening here."