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The broadcasting of Western media, in regards to Africa, is characterized by pessimism and cynicism. Africa has been severely and unfairly criticized by them since the colonial era. The media in Africa itself is a victim of the attacks. Being immature, economically weak and unorganized, they are unable to defend their status, not to mention the continent’s image.
These problems are not unique to Africa; a lot of western countries are experiencing racial tensions, drug trafficking and gang warfare, not to mention the recent turmoil due to the financial crisis. Peace, democracy and development are not unique to them; many parts of Africa are quiet peaceful and experiencing steady economic growth, but the Western Media zoom in their cameras on Africa only when the output is negative, and it looks like Africa’s story will continue to be distorted unless the continent develops its own Al-Jazeera, Press TV or New York Times. The challenge African journalists have to overcome collectively is this unfair representation of the continent. Therefore, it is up to African professionals and leaders to shake off this image.
However, this uphill struggle requires the firm stand of the media, and the commitment of all journalists to the ideology of the African spirit. There must be an underlying ideology that all media on the continent stands for. This ideology can serve as a hub that offers content to all media on the continent. Not only the underlying ideology, but also the core values should characterize the African media. This is what African Media is expected to be. The core values should include image building, promoting development, enhancing democracy and fighting corruption.
In the eyes of the Western media, before European interference, the image of Africa was archaic or primitive. They dare to take credit for African civilization, but history does not prove their claim. Rather, what history shows us is that Africa is the origin of the human species and the birthplace of civilization. The Axumite civilization before 3000 years in Ethiopia and the pyramids in Egypt signify the opposite. Mali and Nigeria had highly complex civilizations prior to European intervention in Africa. These and others are as such untold stories. Therefore, history can be used as a stepping stone in the image building process.
Had it not been for the bias of Western media, contemporary Africa would have had ample airtime and coverage for the success it has registered. There has been a lot of progress in politics, economics and social life. Nowadays, almost all countries, including Somalia, hold elections; civil wars are at a minimum; the continent is registering an average of five percent economic growth and undertaking huge development projects.
If the media in Africa do their sacred duty, they can begin to correct the misrepresentations and draw the world’s attention to this diverse continent. They should present local and African issues to the world on behalf of the continent, and foster African culture and heritage. Thus, to dispel the bad image in which Africa is portrayed, it needs a knight in shining armor; the African media.
If it is to solve Africa’s problems, the media in Africa should focus on the good news. When developments are taking place in any country on the continent, we need to train our cameras on them. The African media must endorse the notion of pointing out the positive aspects of situations or accomplishments of the African people and governments. The media should be on hand to report on social and economic developments changing the lives of citizens. Africa’s endeavor to find solutions to its problems and the successes registered by countries like Ethiopia, Rwanda, Ghana and Nigeria should be headlines.
This does not mean African media should not report on the failures and mismanagement of governments or local administrations. Rather, it must not hesitate to “name and shame,” as exposure of malpractice is a vital component of real advancement and growth. Still, journalists must not forget their intention is promoting positive development and the way they present problems should be “solution inclusive” and far from sensational.
Enhancing democracy and fighting corruption
As one of the basic instruments of development is manpower, violation of democratic and human rights hinders Africa’s journey to prosperity. Hence, African media must work hard to promote democratic societies which give rise to accountability and development. Corruption is the other area that journalists in the African media should fight against. African media should uncover wrong doings by public or private organizations and educate the public to create a corruption-free citizenry.
No doubt that the above considerations should be the African media’s perspective and what the continent deserves, but the media are not capable of accomplishing this now. The media in Africa are neither strong nor independent enough to discharge their responsibilities. To solve the problems in quality of reporting, organizational structure and media management, there must be an African borne solution. Therefore, African media, apart from the ideology it should follow, it must work to build its capacity.
To summarize: there is no doubt Africa is poor and backward. It would be foolish to deny facts that are abundantly clear. I am simply driving home the point that a lot of good news is deliberately going unreported. Therefore Africa needs its own media, which has its own ideology and working principles.
This implies that African journalists will have a certain subjectivity that influence the way they report, which is quite different from the subjectivity that a European journalist may have. This subjectivity is likely to possess an African-centered approach towards the news they report. Of course there are some pan African outlets like ‘New African’ and ‘Business Africa’, but we need to augment these positive beginnings turning them into hefty achievements.