Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:51

Melting Pot of African thought

This year’s union of the second World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) and the 14th Highway Africa conference (HA) is proving to be a melting pot of ideas to revolutionise the future of journalism education and practice.

At yesterday’s opening ceremony delegates discussed Africa’s progression into the new digital age, and the struggles for the promotion of democracy. Mathatha Tsedu, chairperson of The African Editors Forum (TAEF), cited the recent murder of Jean-Leonard Rugambage, deputy editor of Umuvugizi newspaper in Rwanda, as an example of Africa’s struggles with press freedom. Prejudice against press freedom remains a struggle in many African countries today. Advocate Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, said progression is only possible with the free flow of ideas. “In Africa, freedom of expression is deteriorating and the spaces in which the media can practice are shrinking,” she said.

The WJEC and HA union, however, have prompted innovation in the African continent. Miller Motola, CEO of the International Marketing Council, said, “The future looks at advances in ICT’s, citizen journalism and social networking and branding.”  Motola encouraged the idea that South Africa is open for business, and said the idea of open reporting and freedom is of vital importance for Africa’s progress. Pinky Moholi, managing director of Telkom South Africa, shed light on Africa’s journalism front with Telkom’s expansive reach around this year’s soccer World Cup. “Media technology is changing and growing and if the environment is fluid then Telkom has to be,” she said.

Telkom’s reach into mobile and data communication is taking off and promises to connect all to the global media discourse.

Mamodupi Mohlala, Director-General of the Department of Communications, provided a positive outlook on connectivity in South Africa, with the department’s focus on the delivery of information communication technologies to rural areas, internet access to schools, health care centres and promoting broadband access across the country. “People must not be left behind in the digital revolution,” she said.

Africa and the world have come together to share their ideas for the future of journalism. South Africa and Grahamstown are truly hosting the world. “Rhodes University is juggling eighty balls at a time,” said Professor Guy Berger, Head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University. Advances in communication technology in Africa are creating a new Africa with unlimited possibilities.

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Monday, 05 July 2010 16:31

Media still in danger ...

WJEC2 and Highway Africa conferences kicked off with the realisation that countries in Africa are still grappling with problems related to freedom of expression and information. Whereas the consolidation of democracy in many African states has expanded political space, and enhanced media developments, there are huge differences between countries that have adopted freedom of information and those that have not.

This was the exposition made by Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa, Advocate Pansy Tlakula. Tlakula posited that while the media has made significant contributions to democracy, it still suffers serious impediments as a consequence of laws that hinder press freedom. This became even clearer when Mathatha Tsedu, head of Media24 Training Academy in South Africa, recounted the recent killing of Rwandese journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage by people alleged to be state security operatives or close to those in power. Although the claim is yet to be verified, Tsedu asked Rwandan president Paul Kagame to expedite investigation into the murder which has recently shocked the media fraternity not only in Rwanda but also in countries where journalists are increasingly in danger especially because of their investigative work.

So far, the conference has been a rich ground for discussions into the application of media in democratic processes, and whether journalism is a boon or indeed a danger to democracy. In the Democracy and Media Innovations in Africa syndicate, for instance, it was noted that media information may not always aid democracy. In some instances, it may lead to apathy where citizens feel demotivated from engage with politics or politicians. What’s more it may create a disconnect between the consumers of information as voters and the producers of information. This is based on the notion that the elite seek to hog power by using the media for their own selfish interests.

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