Monday, March 14, 2011

Longing for Africa's Media to Tell the True Story of the Continent

Africa's first world cup was just one month of predominantly positive news
about Africa leading to the word "vuvuzela" being added
to the Oxford Dictionary.
I find it amazing how media organisations from first world countries dictate to us what should be leading and where the help is needed most in the world. Japan has been hit by an earthquake which was soon followed by a tsunami and the country needs relief assistance. We have been watching this story leading on television networks from around the world including those from the African continent.

Last year the devastation left by the quake in Haiti led in most media for much of the year and the story was probably the biggest of 2010. A year later, in January this year, many news organisations went back to check on the lack of progress in relief efforts and humanitarian assistance in the country. Two months later it seems as if many are forgetting what took place in Haiti and broadcast media organisation don’t even have a two second voice explaining the progress that has taken place since then.

Thousands of people died and many others went missing during this earthquake which devastated the poor Caribbean island.

Another story that dominated the news at some point is that of random killings and the rape of women and girls in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. If you were to walk into journalism, international relations or politics classes in South Africa today and asked the students to tell you where this region is you are most likely to get blank faces staring at you. If you were to ask the same students to give you all the facts about 9/11 then you will get all the answers you want. Many of these students were about ten years old when 9/11 happened but the story dominates world media at least once a year every year. This shows that richer nations dictate what we get in the media industry.

Africa is a continent that is achieving a lot of progress, the continent is also rich in resources and there are many people in Africa who are making a difference and improving things, but we seldom hear of them in the media as much of what is reported about Africa often consists of coups, dictators and conflict. One would think first world governments don’t have corrupt leaders and African leaders can never be trusted.

I believe that third world media need to decide their own stories. African media cannot always be dictated to by western media on the news that should dominate the headlines. Unfortunately the lack of resources often means that South African news organisations rely on the west for information on stories happening in certain regions of our continent. I long for the day this will change.

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