Samira Sabou works for a Nigerien newspaper and got the unique chance to report on elections directly from the United States.
Traveling for a story is a part of any journalist’s job. Sabou has traveled more than 7,000 miles from Niger to the United States to report on the presidential election. She is part of the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists, funded through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which brings international journalists to leading journalism schools around the country. Sabou is visiting Reno, and the University of Nevada-Reno, with a team of several African journalists.
As a political journalist, being in the United States the night of the presidential election is critical to Sabou’s work.
Sabou writes for a French-speaking government newspaper in Niger called the Office National d’Edition et de Presse, reporting on ambassadors, politicians, and government activity. She opened her own Facebook page after seeing her editors shy away from some of her critical stories. She also happens to be the only female journalist in Niger who has a Facebook page that criticizes the government, which is considered by her peers as taboo.
I have a boyfriend, and he said if we’re married, I have to stop that because it’s not my job,” she said. She has no plans to stop working on her Facebook page should she get married, Sabou added.
As her work has become more popular, more people have begun asking for more information. Sabou said she often has to take a step back from her Facebook page to do the job that actually pays her bills.
For the Nigerien audience, the American election can be indicative of on-going issues in Niger. The U.S. military has a presence in Niger and surrounding counties which means people there have their eyes on the prospective Commander-in-Chief, Sabou said.
“[The] U.S. put military presence maybe three months ago,” Sabou said. “Our region [has] many problems.” Sabou referenced recent events such as with Boko Haram.
In Niger, Sabou said politicians trade votes in villages for supplies like rice or water. American politicians aren’t too dissimilar from Nigerien ones, she said.
It’s the same. When they make [their] campaign, they say they will change the world, they will change the country, but after they arrive, the reality is another thing,” she said on the night of the U.S. election.
Whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is elected, Sabou said she feels like the public will respond accordingly. She doesn’t see it as much of a problem if Trump is elected. If the vote determines the president, then that’s what the people want, she argued.
If Hillary Clinton is elected, Sabou said the Democratic candidate’s previous experience may help her in office, but overall, Sabou wasn’t confident a lot would change in American politics. She was disappointed that both candidates spent more time pointing fingers at each other rather than discussing important issues like education or the economy. Sabou said she didn’t hear either opponent speak about African issues, or the U.S. military bases in Niger.
On the night of the election, Sabou updated her Facebook page every fifteen to twenty minutes with Electoral College updates. When working in Niger, she has to depend on European connections for American news. On Tuesday night, she watched CNN in real time.
“Since the state [polls] are closed, I have the results,” Sabou said while updating her page.
She spent the day interviewing Nigerien men and women living in the U.S., collecting their thoughts on the upcoming election. Out of the three people she interviewed, two said they would vote for Clinton, Sabou said. Earlier in the week, she worked on a piece discussing bipartisan politics, specifically how states could identify as one party predominately.
When comparing Nigerien elections to American, Sabou said she liked how organized the voting process was in the U.S. Niger still uses paper ballots, something that Sabou said can be easily corrupted. She said she hopes her country can move towards electronic ballots.
”I see that everything is going peaceful [in the U.S.],” Sabou said just before the end of election night. “Hopefully it will stay like that.”