Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Strengthening the African Media
I wish to make the following remark with regard to what it takes to strengthen the media. Perhaps an empirical example might help. Here in Bénin republic, during the just concluded presidential electioneering campaign, the media distinguished itself as a body to be respected. How did it happen? A few weeks before the campaign flagged off, the media regulatory body did organize seminars for journalists where series of slogans, guidelines, bill boards and sensitizing instruments were shared. Of course, sanctions were attached to any violation of those guidelines. Some two media houses tried to play the old game. They received the sledge-hammer. They were banned from covering the elections. That means loosing a great percentage of their audience/readers for as long as the elections lasted. Other media houses were put on toes as a result of that punitive measure. It might be interesting to note that at least a quarter of the media houses are owned by politicians or have some measure of leaning. Yet, decorum was the order of the day. Many international observers who came to Bénin during the elections did not leave without commending the Bénin media. The level of respect the media in Benin commands, not only from politicians, the government, or from members of the civil society, is unparralleled. It stands to reason that, should any media organisation in Benin seek to obtain some outside assistance to strengthen itself, it will certainly receive positive response, on account of that tongue of good report. Alas, the same cannot be said of many other African media. My submission, therefore, is that building a sustainable institution to bolster the public sphere and help nurture effective states, has to begin with establishing a credible media.