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Egypt TV Building in Cairo

There is need to redirect the overall programing of media content in Africa. Television and Cinema are transmitting programs designed for the American and European domestic market. Most of these programs are irrelevant and alien to Africans. Much foreign programming serves as a stimulus for the glorification of deviant and anti-social behaviour, including racist attitudes that denigrate Africans. Many of Africans would like to live abroad because of the propaganda that gives a glossy veneer to life outside Africa, WHILE at the same time transmitting unbalanced images of African life.

Media literacy would seek to generate a recognition that all messages are constructs and carry with them the hidden ideology of both their creator and of the creator’s context. A democracy based upon participative citizens requires the capacity to read all media texts critically, even those with which one might agree. Therefore the AUF is working on implementing a massive public media literacy project for the African Union.

Africa's road to a better media image
Western stereotypes, Africa's own weaknesses tackled in lively debate
By Salim Lone in Cardiff, UK

A high-level international conference called to examine ways of improving Africa's image in the western media strongly concluded that this goal will only be achieved if Africa first puts its own house in order. This unexpected conclusion, from a lively and often controversial debate spread over two days in November, was yet another indication of how profoundly African thinkers over the last decade in particular have focused on addressing the continent's own weaknesses rather than highlighting the numerous international constraints that continue to hobble Africa's revival.

"Developing a more positive self-image within Africa is much more important than tackling our poor image in the western media," said Ghana's former Communication Minister Ekwow Spio-Garbrah.

Composed primarily of senior African journalists, influential British counterparts, and other eminent personalities from Africa and the West, participants did not spare the "sloppy, poor and sometimes dishonest" reporting practised by some foreign journalists, in the words of Mr. Wilfred Kiboro, Managing Director of The Nation Newspapers, East and Central Africa's largest, most successful and most respected newspaper chain, which was a principal sponsor of the conference.

Referring to the foreign media's tendency to stereotype, Mr. Kiboro described the bizarre sight, after the August terrorist bombing in Nairobi, of western television reporters wearing jungle fatigues, cowboy hats and flak jackets — framed, of course, by some of the most modern skyscrapers in the world!

Prime Minister Kintu Musoke of Uganda, in his keynote address, said stereotypical reporting, and its preoccupation with the negative, poses a threat to Africa's development by distorting international perceptions. "We are building a new Africa against many odds," he said.

The discussions reflected the self-confidence with which Africans now analyze their problems, with numerous speakers stressing the continent's need to seek full international recognition, not on the basis of pleas for fairness, but on the strength of political stability and dynamic involvement in global affairs.

Participants emphasized the importance of recognizing that many African countries have made remarkable political and economic strides in a global environment that was particularly hard on the poor countries. But the post-Cold War 1990s have also brought genocide in Rwanda and large-scale political violence and gross levels of corruption in far too many countries. So, however misleading or sensationalist some western media's Africa coverage might be, such coverage will only improve if Africa gets its act together. Another indication of growing self-confidence was the open manner in which African participants raised issues of unequal flows of information. Prime Minister Musoke pointed out the continuing inequality of relations between the African and industrialized worlds, and Mr. Spio-Garbrah recalled the developing-country rallying calls of the 1970s for a New World Information and Communication Order and a New World Economic Order. Such language caused neither stir nor derision in a setting in which Africans made no bones about their own weaknesses. In the same vein, many participants said African governments should facilitate press freedom in their own countries, since one of the crucial sources of information for foreign journalists is the local press — if it is free, credible and professionally sophisticated.

The self-critical approach in no way diminished the zeal with which western media shortcomings were highlighted. Mr. Helge Ronning, professor of media and communications at Oslo University, noted the "structural synergy" between disaster and violence on the one hand, and the activities of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the international media on the other. "Disaster journalism" is a big proportion of western media coverage of Africa, and during emergencies, he said, NGO fund-raising campaigns take on a new vibrancy, gaining tremendously from the images of western humanitarian personnel working heroically as symbols of the decency of international aid and of the NGOs themselves. International relief agencies, he added, play an increasingly important policy-making role in crisis-ridden countries, because they went in as the major powers pulled out of Africa in the 1990s.

A Kenyan journalist enlarged the discussion on the media by pointing to the role major powers played in setting the agenda for media coverage.

There was little doubt that Africa ranked lowest in western priorities. The most graphic instance of this was of course the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, when nearly a million people were massacred within three months in full view of the world, but not even limited military action was undertaken.

Similarly, well over $100 bn dollars had been mobilized in the last year to tackle the financial crises in South-East Asia and Brazil, while Africa, the world's most deprived continent by far, had obtained only the minimalist of relief and continued to pay nearly $30 bn a year in debt payment, despite repeated G-7 promises of action.

Organization of African Unity spokesman Ibrahim Dagash launched a blistering attack on cultural insensitivities and double standards. Quoting extremely derogatory comments about Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and President Yoweri Museveni from the "Mailbag" segment of the BBC's "Focus on Africa" programmes in October, he compared these to the sanitized media commentaries the BBC presents in its "Weekly Review of the British Press."

From the opposite perspective, Mr. Joe Kadhi, a former editor of Kenya's Daily Nation, said forcefully that however hastily one might criticize the western media, no one can question the fact that the wave of democracy and concern for human rights sweeping across Africa might have faltered without widespread coverage in the western media.

Radio is ubiquitous in Africa. Everyone in Africa has access to radio receivers of all kinds. Radio Programming is also unique to Africa, and public education is just one service that radio provides to communities.

In the African Union television is a major factor in the dissemination of popular or national culture. The television industry in Africa is largely free-to-air. Most TV stations are state owned and operated for free public service. The state owned stations are not dependent on advertising revenue, so the advertisement intervals in Africa are 30 minutes or longer. Private stations do exist and are becoming more common. Most are owned by large foreign MultiNational Corporations.

Kenya Televison Network was the first non-pay privately African owned TV station in Africa. KTN was established in 1990 in Nairobi. The African Union's largest, free-to-air television network is TVAfrica, with headquarter offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, became operational in July 1998. It transmits a staple diet of American programming in sitcoms and soaps, European Sports (soccer especially), via satellite, without the need for a decoder, satellite dish or subscription. TV Africa operations over 20 republics in the African Union.

TVAFrica has one of the world's largest viewing audineces (over 100 million viewers have access to the signal). The other large broadcaster is MNET in South Africa. Most of the local state broadcasters are affiliated with large media outlets including CNN, MNET and TVAFrica.

The newspaper is very old in Africa, dating back to ancient times. Produced by ancient scribes and used for public edicts, the papyrus was less durable than the clay tablet or the more labour intensive slab of granite, preferred by heads of the "great houses", to commemorate heroic actions.

Ancient Egyptians (correctly "kem") and the Kushites excelled at hieroglyphs. In other parts of Africa, writing has not survived, and only the Vai script of Liberia and Amharic script remain in extensive use today. Much of the other ancient Africa writing remains indecipherable and is yet to to reveal its secrets.

Click: List of Television Stations in the African Union
Click: List of Newspapers in the African Union