The Way Forward For The Media in Africa

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The media is the greatest tool that the world has today in influencing ideas and opinions. It is accessible to most people in one form or another. How the news is portrayed and what becomes news is determined by the media. It also influences how people think about a particular item or event by how the news is reported. This is why the media must be careful at what it reports and how it reports. One way or another it will covey a message which may have great ramification on those reading or receiving the message.

The western media has for the most part portrayed the African continent as backwards and inferior in every aspect while glorifying the animals found in Africa. All that one reads about Africa is the perceived ignorance, poverty, and corruption of the Africans. This seems to have become the symbol of Africa and has been done so with a motive which the ignorant reader may not even recognize.

To most people in the western world poverty, disease and animals is what Africa is about which opinion is based on how news from Africa is reported. Good things happening in Africa is not news, but a continuous report about calamities, diseases and roused civil conflicts and poverty is acceptable news. The same media reports to the African a glamorized Western world; perhaps an ideal of what is good.

The idea here is to portray one as superior and the other as inferior to the other. Some of the comments that I have read on an article on Africa, from those in the Western world are despicable and full of ignorance yet it is the acceptable view. No wonder then that the African has for a long time perceived himself as inferior because of this deception while the person from the West erroneously believe he is superior.

This is why the media from localized African countries have as of necessity a duty to campaign for Africa in order to change perspective on Africa. The media has to go further and plant seeds of pride and acceptance among Africans for themselves and their culture. It should promote what is African and create a spirit of accountability by following up on issues that promote integrity and honor among Africans. The media should influence by suggestions and not just analysis.

The media must intentionally and consciously go out to promote anything and everything good about Africa. It must as of necessity start the process of influencing Africans to be proud of being Africans by exposing positive things about Africa and by continuously hailing good acts by Africans. The media in Africa should not report about its own people in the same way the Western media reports but should instead offer a different perspective that is liberating and honoring to the people of Africa.

The media in the USA played a huge role in promoting patriotism and ensuring the nation remained or came together as one against a common enemy after the “911“ incident. It reported only what would safeguard national interest and would promote the people’s support for the leadership. It also captured the moment to honor the firefighters and policemen, whom people take for granted, but never pause to consider the challenges they face in performing their duties.

Immediately after “911″ a fear of flying and buying groped the nation due to the uncertainty prevailing at the time. Once again the media was effective in changing the mood by interviewing the authorities on the security, which authorities gave an assurance that they were in control. The media encouraged people to go out and spend their money and at the same time interviewed those who were spending, honoring spending money at such a time, as an act of patriotism and the best way to defeat the enemy. The media also worked on the emotions of the people and brought them together in assisting those affected by the tragedy. It reported positively on the leadership, and gave the president full support, thereby influencing the people’s support on the president.

The media from Africa can learn something from this about calculating patriotism. There are time the media in Africa has sometimes been in the forefront of confusing the people and perpetuating the negativity about Africa by their reporting. Sometimes the media has fallen prey to the whims of politicians and has encouraged divisive politics in their reporting. The media has either not understood its role of influencing positive change, or it has failed in this role. It is almost like the media assumes its role is only to report and offer some criticism when the opportunity arises.

The last Kenyan election of 2007 epitomizes how dangerous the media can be when it falls prey to the whims of politicians. Instead of unifying the country at a time when emotions were very raw, the Kenyan media actually helped in polarizing the nation even further by parading information that incited one tribe after the other. The media must never condone acts of tribalism by analyzing leadership from a tribal perspective. The media must always remember that it is communicating to a nation and should accordingly influence people to think nationally and not tribally.

Apart from exposing the corruption and negative deeds of those in leadership, it must also of necessity balance this with the good to ensure that it gives hope to the people. It must also highlight and reflect positive things done by Africans from all works of life. This way a spirit of patriotism may be born among Africans. It should also stop comparing acts of Africans with those of the Western world or wait or hunger for a pat on the back by the West in order to feel accomplished.

The media ought instead to encourage Africans to set their own standards of excellence based on prevailing factors and what define them as a people. Criticism based on what happens in the USA or Europe, for example the “if it was in the USA, things would have been different” ought to stop. Africa is not the USA or Europe and by continuing to make such comparisons the media is still suggesting that the West is the model of excellence when that is not always true.

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