Nobel Laureate, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu provided words of inspiration to journalists and academics at the closing ceremony of the World Journalism Educator's Congress and Highway Africa Conference.

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all," he told delegates. Tutu became a signatory to the Table Mountain Declaration calling on governments in Africa to abolish insult laws and criminal defamation laws in Africa. These laws are seen as among the chief impediments preventing free and open criticism of African governments through the vehicles of the press.

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Can a middle class, Indian woman understand the life of an upper class, black male, a lower class, coloured man, or even a middle class, white woman? The truth is – we can’t. Working on this basis, the question remains whether it is possible for journalists to adequately represent those other than themselves?

Issues of representation are rife in media studies and a plausible solution to the concern “who can talk for who” comes in the shape of citizen journalism – a journalism produced by the public.

Professor Fackson Banda, senior Unesco official in Paris, launched his book, Citizen Journalism and Democracy in Africa, last night at the Absa Africa Night Dinner.

Banda’s book provides an analysis of “the nature of citizen journalism in Africa and its impact on the institutions and processes of democracy”. The book addresses the impact information and communication technologies (ICTs) have on practices of citizen journalism, looking at issues such as operational, contextual and strategic aspects.

The institutionalisation of citizen journalism is also addressed, taking a look at the “level of uptake of citizen journalism by conventional media”. As the title suggests, the book addresses the “democratic value” of this fast developing form of journalism. Banda engages this issue by looking at aspects such as “ownership of communication channels, civic participation, access and accessibility” and others.

Citizen Journalism and Democracy in Africa couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. The book answers pressing questions often asked at conferences such as these what methodology does citizen journalism use? What themes are emerging within it? What impacts do globalisation and democratisation have on citizen journalism? What is the future for citizen journalism?

The book launch, hosted by Happy Nsthingila, will be held at the 1820 Settlers’ Monument last night. Dignitaries such as His Excellency John Aqyekum Kufuor, former president of Ghana attended the launch.  

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The 'Democracy and media innovations in South Africa' WJEC syndicate discussion took place in the Africa Media Matrix building on 5 July 2010, involving 18 participants. The expert for the session was Ruth Teer-Tomaselli and it was chaired by Zvenyika Mugari.

Highlights from the session included the definition of democracy, media and innovations; that democracy involved a plethora of choices; That the media make significant contributions to democracy; and that the symbiotic relationship between the media and democracy is crucial in enhancing democratic practice.

The critical areas of concern were the contribution of New Media in facilitating the process of democracy in South Africa in particular and Africa at large, as well as that New Media dispensation and its penetration is crucial in any discussion concerning the media and democracy.

The presenter received great applause from participants and this was followed by a barrage of contributions from participants. Issues that arose included questions like 'What variants of democracy can be addressed and what does ‘old media’ mean?'

The discussion then shifted to the issue of whether or not the media offered any hope to democracy in Africa. There were various sides in the discussion, as issues of ownership and control came up. The discussion will continue in the next session.

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