Africa: Govt Officials Agree on Crucial Role of Media

Experts are increasingly acknowledging the important role the press must play in African development. Participants at the 5th African Media Leaders Forum, which convened this Thursday and Friday in Dakar, discussed the function of media enterprises in the creation of a prosperous Africa.

A ray of hope emerged from the 5th African Media Leaders Forum this Thursday in Dakar. Several politicians present at the conference, including the Prime Minister of Senegal, Abdoul Mbaye, the Vice-Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Bülent Arinç, and Cameroon’s minister of communications, Mr. Issa Tchiroma Bakary, agreed on the crucial role the media must play to bolster the continent’s position in the global scene.

Their collective agreement on this issue marks an important step forward in promoting active, responsible citizenship in the media, as to date many public authorities in Africa have shown relative indifference to the state of the press.

In an environment that requires collective action from all social actors, the Prime Minister of Senegal, Mr. Abdoul Mbaye, believes fostering dialogue between citizens, media and governments in African countries is of the utmost importance.

An option which, according to the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Mr Bulent Arinc. requires finding the bases of dialogue and reconciliation between politicians and media people. For him, “the media have an important role to play in the cooperation of African states.” Moreover, he believes that establishing a healthy environment for the press is crucial for creating peace and stability throughout the world.

To achieve as much, he suggested, there must be freedom of expression throughout African countries underpinned by a responsible press mindful of professional and ethical conduct. Mr. Markus Brauckmann of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (Kas Media Africa) believes the integrity of the press in Africa could be maintained by effective media regulation.

The minister of communications of Cameroon, however, claims that the inherent self-regulation of the press serves exactly that purpose. M. Issa Tchiroma Bakary cited several community media associations in Africa as well as Argentina, as evidence that the media operates better with self-regulation.

This is why Cameroon plans to hold meetings on the state of the press, according to Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary.

“The professionalism of the press suffers from a general lack of cohesion. Hence we see the importance of establishing order.”

Freedom of the Press for the Growth of the People

Freedom of expression significantly impacts the development of citizens throughout the continent, believes Dr. George Ayittey, president of the Free Africa Foundation. He cited Rwanda and Ethiopia as examples, claiming citizens in both countries frequently suffer, at least in part, from a lack of awareness created by the restrictions placed upon freedom of expression.

This becomes all the more disturbing in an era when many believe that technology has rendered the world a "global village." Turkey’s Vice-Prime Minister expressed his disappointment at this fact. “It’s a shame that improvements in technology don’t seem to have had an effect on world peace.”

AMI-Turkey Convention

The Republic of Turkey has reaffirmed its commitment to assisting African media in seeking solutions to human and economic development throughout the continent. The head of the Turkish press agency and Amadou Ba Mahtar of the African Media Initiative signed a partnership agreement in this regard.

For the Vice-Prime Minister of Turkey, this partnership agreement represents an important step in his country’s continued support of Africa. For Amadou Mahtar Ba, Turkish support will help establish a mechanism for improving equipment and technology in African media.

Furthermore, Mr. Ba announced that AMI has established a one million U.S. dollar fund to promote reporting on development in Africa.

Translated by Elise Knutsen; edited by Rougui Diaw.

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