Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hope for Journalism in Africa

Last week I had the priviledge of taking part in some events during the finalists programme for this year's CNN African Journalist of the Year Awards. Though not one of the finalists, somebody very close to me was, and I was his guest during the programme.

It's really great to be reassured of the abundant of talents Africa has. I have always known that besides natural resources, Africa is blessed with abundant human resources. I consider focus on mineral resources as opposed to the development of human resources, one of the primary cause of Africa's underdevelopment.

To be close to some of the best that Africa has to offer in journalism for almost a week, was a very special feeling for me. The event was not just for the finalists, many editors, publishers and media owners from across the continent attended.

Among the hightlights of the programme was a workshop that examined journalists role during conflict. The recent violence in Kenya and the xenophobic attacks in South Africa were major case studies. The questions were - Do journalists incite violence? Can they predict violence? Can they prevent violence?

The panelists were mostly editors and journalism teachers from Kenya and South Africa. Their thoughts on the above questions were quite profound. So also were those of other practitioners from other parts of the continent.

At the end of the day, the majority view were that journalists could incite violence; and they can also predict it. The opinions were divided as to the extent to which they can help stop violence once it's erupted as in the case of Kenya several months ago.

The panelists, however, agreed that that despite the challenges confronting the practice in Africa, journalism has significantly advanced on the continent. But the battle for supremacy between 'envelopmental journalism' and 'developmental journalism' still looms.

However, going by the quality of the entries this year, one can say without any doubt that there is hope for journalism in Africa. I saw in most of the entries, journalism that asks the real question about the various challenges Africa faces; journalism that goes the extra mile to tell the African story.

It was indeed a great experience. I have lived in Accra for about a year now, but has never felt the city the way I did this last week. Congratulations to all the finalists. God bless Africa.
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