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The African media and state accountability

Gözde Isik's picture

I attended a very interesting seminar today on the role of the media in governance and anti-corruption. Key speaker for the session was the first African-born winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Nigerian journalist Dele Olojede. Mr. Olojede talked about the information and communication revolution that has taken place in Africa in the last decade and how it has transformed the role of the media all across the continent.

Emphasizing the breakthrough in widespread usage of cell phones and internet coverage and the growth of commercial radio stations, he talked about how it has substantially changed the way Africans view governance and their role in holding governments accountable.  As a result of this media revolution, citizens are becoming more empowered by increased access to information that otherwise would not be accessible to the public. He also mentioned how this revolution had been very effective in activating the wider public. Especially with the increase in user generated content based media such as blogs and ‘eye witness’ type news, anyone with access to a cell phone or the internet has the opportunity to share information in real time while remaining anonymous.

I left the seminar thinking to myself that given the huge potential the media has, perhaps it is the best tool that African countries have at their disposal to promote accountability and anti-corruption, then shouldn’t we be increasing our efforts to keep supporting and strengthening Africa’s media sector?

Comments

Submitted by Helen on

I agree with you (writing from South Africa), that the media plays an extremely positive role in this regard. Crucially however support efforts would need to focus on that media which is independent of state intervention - a thing easier said than done in many cases, but no reason not to try.

Particularly worth considering are media that allow for two-way communication, esp cell phones. They're a fantastic tool for social action as they allow easy, direct feedback and a degree of citizen anonymity that makes reporting corruption and crime somewhat more likely.

An example of a local initiative seeing some success is an anonymous tip-off sms line through which citizens can alert the police to crimes that are being planned by other members of their communities. It could equally be an effective means of drumming up protest against corruption.

The media, mainly the internet media like social medias, blogs, forums are excellent ways to combat the corruption because they allow people to have the information that could be manipulate by others medias. But the internet has no censorship policy, so people can know the truth and also participate, comment, interact each other. We are living the age of information and the internet media is making possible to share all these knowledge and information. Excellent Article! Congrats.

Excellent, however, new media can often be very negative, for example in the Kenyan election dispute, text messages were sent around the country inciting "The Rwandan Solution" to the "kikuyu problem". It was a very worrying time!

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