The Herald (Harare)

13 November 2012

Zimbabwe: African Media Must Be True to African Beliefs

opinion

In one of his farewell speeches as British prime minister, Tony Blair, seeing the sun setting slowly on his political career, gave vent to some of his inner feelings, not on education, but on the media. "The fear of missing out means today's media more than ever before, hunts in a pack. In these modes, it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits. But no one dares miss out . . . The final consequence of all this is that it is rare today to find balance in the media."

Blair also said in a speech in which he too quoted the long-gone British prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, as having said: "Power without responsibility has been the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages."

Never mind that the West, including Blair himself, has deployed the same media for their selfish ends.

Remember the notorious Iraq war based on lies that the Persian country had weapons of mass destruction, which position was propagated by the media in both the UK and the US.

The Western media, in following their countries' flags, often spoil for, support and otherwise stoke differences in which their countries often stand to benefit.

The media becomes a conduit for war.

It is not clear whether, with the benefit of hindsight, he was savaging the media in his country for being part of the Iraq mendacity.

But then Blair has not regretted Iraq and has come out on various forums pigheadedly defending his and his buddy former US leader George Bush's stance on Iraq.

But then, shorn of this context, Tony Blair's sentiments still contain some home truths that could be deployed even to the media in Africa, and Zimbabwe in particular.

The African continent is unfortunately being reported on negatively by media in the West.

This negative reporting is a subject very dear to the hearts of discerning Africans.

Negative reporting and the presentation of poor images of this vast continent are very unfortunate.

In fact, it leaves one with doubts about the professionalism of these Western media.

The secret to the bias and the dominance of Western views is the power of their media.

They claim to be "the paragons of objectivity and balance" yet their bias is "motivated by a pervasive negative mentality about Africa and the deep-rooted belief that Africa does not possess the necessary capacity to perform on the international stage".

Without knowing the dynamics driving the Western media, one will wrongly think that today's media behaves much like Baldwin's harlot.

But throughout the printing age, the Western media has always been true to its core belief that is to portray Africa as a dark continent.

This is the reason why Africans and the rest of the world were made to view Saddam as a tyrant in Iraq; Gaddafi was made to look like an enemy to his people and in Syria, Assad is blamed for all the deaths there.

This is also the reason why the land reform programme in Zimbabwe was castigated in the Western media.

Of course, it has turned out that the land reform programme is bearing fruit and may be a model for countries like South Africa and others.

The Western nations are fond of voicing the false accusation that China is exploiting or colonising Africa when they are actually busily trying to re-establish their former control over the same place (continent).

Accordingly, using "bias" to describe the Western media's attitude towards Africa is an understatement.

It is too subtle a word.

Malignant conspiracy is a more appropriate description.

To be honest, Africa is not a paradise. Indeed, no other continent is!

However, the level of negative publicity which the Western media heap on Africa is to say the least, deplorable.

They are nothing but aggressive pornographic rubbish, whose ultimate aim is to belittle en masse.

Those who know Africa not only shy away at the level of this disservice, but stare with scorn at the carefulness with which some of these false "reports" are cruelly orchestrated.

CNN and BBC are among the biggest culprits in this destructive defamation effort.

Neither is interested in a balanced presentation.

As they keenly pursue their agenda, all but the most trivial positive tidings are suppressed.

For example, no Western media highlights the fact that since this millennium, eight out of 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa.

How would they report this when their goal is to discourage any sort of foreign direct investment?

Here is the truth that Africans do not like to hear, Americans and other nations of the world do things based on their own national interests.

It is about time Africa starts to do the same!

Africa needs to strengthen its media to rival CNN and BBC to the extent that African news channels compete in the world.

CNN and BBC only care about African stories that have something to do with poverty, disease and war.

Therefore, African media entities should take this opportunity to expose the bias of the western media and tell stories of Africa and Africans every day.

African media entities should also reclaim Africa's stories that are not only uplifting, but stories of movements and initiatives that are meeting the needs of Africa and Africans, and tell them to the world.

It is high time African journalists should try to change the image of our continent.

Africa is not a hopeless continent, nor is it a dark continent. Therefore, the African media should be true to African core beliefs. Unlike the Western media, they should not be biased but be objective and balanced in their reportage.

History has shown that when an African country is doing well, the west is quick to disrupt the peace one way or another.

The truth is that if a journey begins with one step, then the journey to Africans being able to tell their own stories has not only begun, but a mile ahead.

The writer is based in Harare. He writes in his own capacity.

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