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must speak truth to power
Wendy Muperi, Daily News
September 03, 2013
African journalists should
hold public office holders accountable for their actions if they
are to remain relevant, media experts and activists have said.
Addressing the Highway
Africa conference underway here, Herman Wasserman, the Rhodes University
Journalism School’s deputy head, told hundreds of African
journalists that commercialisation and generalisation have seriously
affected Africa’s media landscape.
“If media loses
trust and accountability then it has lost what it represents and
we have seen that in the past few years,” Wasserman said.
“Accountability does not only mean how media speak the truth
but also how it listens to it.”
Highway Africa is the
biggest annual conference for African media practitioners and has
since its conception been held in South Africa.
The 17th conference is
running under the theme “Speaking truth to power - media,
politics and accountability.” Over the years the conference
has been at the centre of Africa’s debates on the interface
of journalism and new media.
The event has journalists,
civil society activists and academics deliberating on African media’s
role in holding political authority accountable and also how journalists
themselves are accountable through codes of conduct and regulatory
Other sessions at the
conference will focus on social media and how ordinary citizens
have used the various platforms to further freedom of expression
as well as to hold governments and corporates accountable.
Sizwe Mabizela, Rhodes
University deputy vice chancellor (academic and student affairs),
said African leaders have for a long time sold bottled smoke to
their supporters before the media’s passive eyes.
“There are many
stories of hopes raised and unfulfilled,” Mabizela said.
“When we start
to speak the truth to power, we will be able to tell a new interesting
story about our continent, then we will have a continent which is
at peace with itself, a continent in which greed and corruption
are nothing but a rare abnormality and a media that is able to tell
the truth without fear or favour.”
Gitobu Imanyara, a human
rights activist, lawyer and former Kenyan MP, said the credibility
of African media has severely been compromised by poverty and intimidation,
forcing news consumers to rely on western media outlets. The Committee
to Protect Journalists (CPJ)’s latest report says at least
1 000 journalists have lost their lives in the line of duty since
“We must regain
our values, we cannot afford to lose our mission,” he said.
In Africa, battlelines
are normally drawn between private and public media leading to persistent
Peter Horrocks, BBC Global
News director said media effectiveness cannot be separated from
a “functional democracy”.
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