'Innovative and professional' – Seychelles News Agency’s co-creator Maxim Behar wishes SNA happy 1st anniversary
Maxim Behar, Honorary Consul of Seychelles in Bulgaria and co-creator of the Seychelles News Agency (M3 Communications Group)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Exactly one year after its inception, the Seychelles News Agency has gained over 300,000 unique users throughout the world and has received over 1.1 million hits.
The Seychelles News Agency was officially launched on April 22, 2014 as the first online news agency service of the Seychelles islands, an archipelago of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean with a population of 90,000 people.
The service was the innovation of the Honorary Consul for Seychelles in Bulgaria and owner of PR and social media corporation M3 Communications Group, Maxim Behar, who presented the idea to Seychelles President James Michel during an official visit in November 2013, along with an offer to donate the software and development of the agency’s website to Seychelles.
The news agency is funded by the country’s Department for Information, headed by the Chief Press Secretary in the Office of the President, Srdjana Janosevic.
Behar was appointed Honorary Consul of the Republic of Seychelles in Bulgaria in July 2004 by Seychelles President James Michel, and recently celebrated ten years in his voluntary post.
The online text and photo news service offers readers from all over the world relevant and up-to-date news and information on the Seychelles islands, in both English and French, with an editorial team headed by co-editors Sharon Uranie and Rassin Vannier for each language service respectively.
The Seychelles News Agency writes for a global audience and is tasked with the mission to create awareness of the Seychelles and its people in the global community, and position Seychelles regionally and internationally as a Small Island Developing State with its unique experience of social, economic and cultural development.
SNA interviewed Behar via email to find out what he thinks of how the project has developed in Seychelles.
SNA: the Seychelles News Agency was your brainchild and you helped to develop the website – how do you feel now, one year on to see how the agency has progressed?
MB: It is amazing. I really truly and heartily believed in this project from the very beginning, but what we can see now, after only one year of hard work and dedicated journalism crossed all my expectations by far. The most important result is the fact that now, we, in small Seychelles, in fact have one of the most innovative and professional news agencies in Africa.
Of course, there is a lot to do, to improve and to make much better, but the base is really strong and from now on we may only grow further. It is extremely important, as through Seychelles News Agency the whole world will be much better informed about our beautiful country and all our achievements on the islands will be quickly and reliably known to all the globe.
|Celebrating the launch of SNA last year: (left to right) French Co-Editor Rassin Vannier, Maxim Behar, English Co-Editor Sharon Uranie, then-Seychelles Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean Paul Adam and Chief Press Secretary in the Office of the President, Srdjana Janosevic. ( Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
SNA: For you what has been the best or strongest aspect of the news agency?
MB: From my perspective - the reliability of the news and the fact that always all possible opinions and points of view are included. This is crucially important in modern journalism.
SNA: From a public relations point of view, do you believe the agency is a good ambassador for Seychelles for international readers (even when there is sometimes bad news)?
MB: It is not only a good ambassador of Seychelles, it is simply the perfect one. Nowadays - especially with social media and modern means of communications the world is so transparent that we cannot hide anything. And that’s why the world is much better than ten years ago - I always say that everything which is transparent is ethical.
We should not be afraid of “bad news” - they happen every day and everywhere. If [you], in Seychelles News Agency, are enough professional and fast and fair - then much better to cover all news - good or bad - and to explain then to the world, than amateurs to interpret [the news] wrongly.
SNA: How would you respond to the critics who would prefer there to be only good news about Seychelles put online?
MB: Again, from my point of view it is nonsense. If we do not cover all news, then our readers will not trust us. You must remember very well that in fact we do not sell news, opinions or commentaries. We sell trust and if we do not cover the news as it happens, then the readers will not trust us.
From my observations, the readership circle of Seychelles News Agency has grown very stable, which means that people trust us and we simply must keep [on] the same good track - to be realistic, professional and fast.
SNA: How do you think it could still improve – what other milestones do you think it could realistically achieve in the next few years?
MB: We must involve much more social media in promoting our news and it would be good to see more video material… my strong recommendation also is to increase the commentary part of the agency. [Seychelles] is a small country, which not so many people understand… [they] accept it as just a tourist destination.
That is why, the SNA journalists must have a group of local commentators, who share their opinions on the main and most important events on the island.
It will be also good to have interesting interviews with interesting people - starting from influential decision makers and experts up to ordinary fishermen and entrepreneurs. This will be a perfect way to make our readers understand the country much better.
SNA: Finally, what words of advice or encouragement do you have for the writers and editors at SNA?
MB: Just be professionals - independent, honest and responsible professionals. One of my favourite sayings, which I have on a T-shirt is “Talk is cheap, free speech isn’t”.
These days with social media we have free speech everywhere, the most important for us to make it serious and responsible. Good luck!