Champions for freedom of information in Africa often have to respond to claims that the media would abuse such a dispensation. Governments resist granting rights to information, citing “irresponsible” journalism that incites public violence. So the media is presented as being the roadblock to reform.
At a conference in Accra, convened by the Carter Centre, media leaders Karikari and Ba gave their counter-arguments:
In Nigeria, neither the constitution nor the law gives people a right to information. It could make you cry, but there’s also a whacky side to it.
Activists seeking change have spent a decade’s worth of struggle in a topsy-turvy political landscape that would be comical were it not also tragic. But after all their work, Nigerian officialdom remains opaque, and there is no short-term prospect of relief.
Imagine two groups of pilgrims on two different journeys, taking roads that intersect occasionally.
One group is doing research into media. The other is spending money to develop media.
Currently, their paths cross only sporadically. Most hurry along their route with their minds focused on their destination.
But what if someone threw a party at one of the junctions; got them all to pause and talk to each other?
While still in office as Minister of Communications, the late Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri initiated a process to review legislation around the SABC. This was in the face of the political conflict around the CEO and the Board, and pre-dated the economic crisis at the corporation. The then suddenly pro-Zuma Parliament didn't wait on the processes of an Mbeki-ministerial appointee, but decided to act to remove the Mbeki-approved board (which they themselves had recommended before he lost power at Polokwane).
African journalism educators are not the easiest constituency to construct into a community. Nothing wrong with them as people! The challenges come from their jobs in general - and the particular conditions of African j-schools (dispersed, under-resourced, divided by language and country, etc).
But a major reason why Rhodes pitched for, and won, the hosting status for the World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) over 5-7 July, 2010, is to help overcome these obstacles. We're convinced that all of us across the continent benefit from networking.