Dakar — Media leaders, scholars, civil society and high level government representatives from Africa and other parts of the world have converged in Dakar from the 7th -9 November 2012 for the 5th African Media Leaders Forum organised by the African Media Initiative (AMI) in collaboration with other partners to discuss citizenship and the media and how to strengthen their participation in the development of the continent.
The theme of the forum, which was opened by Mr. Abdoul Kebba Mbaye, the Prime Minister of Senegal, is 'Africa 3.0 - Strenghtening Media and Governance Through Citizens' Engagement and Innovation.
In his statement, the Senegalese Prime Minister applauded the selection of his country as the venue of the forum which he described as the "largest event of owners and managers of media in Africa". He said Africa needs a functional democracy and that the participation of the media in the process helps to strengthen it. He said the AMLF which started in 2008 in Senegal with 50 participants is said to have attracted more than 350 participants this year.
He told participants that Senegal recognises the important role of the media in governance, citing the contribution in strengthening democracy in his country.
Prime Minister Mbaye said it is possible to have peaceful democratic change in Africa, adding that Senegal has demonstrated that type of change emanating from the will of the people with the full participation of media. He said economic development cannot take place if democracy is not consolidated. He said the people have voices and that it is the role of the media to resonate or amplify them.
The Prime Minister, who was accompanied by two cabinet ministers in the persons of Cheikh Bamba Dieye and Latif Coullibally, responsible for Territorial Administration and Information respectively, urged media practitioners to refuse to be the Third World Media and should be proactive in the democratisation process.
Mr. Mbaye concluded that media should ensure the quality of the information content disseminated which, he said, is important for their audience.
The forum was also addressed by the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Zouwentan, who participated in the session and later performed the signing of the Turkey-Africa Media Partnership with AMI.
Following the formal opening ceremony, the first plenary session witnessed panellists such as the Ghanaian political writer Prof. George Ayittey (Guest Speakers), Mr. Chiroma, Cameroonian Minister of Information, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister making presentations on 'Strengthening Governance and Media through Citizens Engagement and Participation'.
Prof. Ayittey was unequivocal that it is the political leaders who failed Africa, adding that they are alone in this disservice to the African people as the intellectuals and the media to some extent have to also bear a degree of responsibility. He cited opposition as weak in the face of control and domination of state resources by parties in government. He also blamed the international community for remaining silent and or supporting some of their 'boys' who they parade as the 'New Leaders of Africa' such as the Meles', Musevenis, Kagames etc. He said media should wrest control of the channels of information from government domination and monopoly. He concluded that Good Governance is a collective responsibility.
Minister Chiroma said his country Cameroun is "so overwhelmed by media freedoms that they don't know how to manage it". He heralded the numerous radio stations, newspapers and the lack of journalists and political prisoners in their jails as prove of press and political freedoms.
The Turkish Prime Minister also talked about the need for media freedoms but argued that these rights should not be abused by people who promote the cause of those he termed as 'terrorists'.
He said politicians should open up and tolerate criticism.
Other interesting presentations followed throughout the day in four plenary sessions and questions and answers followed.
Subsequent reports will attempt to capture the other presentations such as Technology, African News Innovation, Media and open Data, and debate.