An overview of 50 years of African journalism, edited by Elizabeth Barratt and Guy Berger,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â has beenÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â published by the African Editors' Forum and two other media organisations. Wits University's Phakamisa Ndzamela reviews the book.
Phakamisa Ndzamela writes:
50 Years of Journalism: African media since GhanaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s independence gives an overview of the history and the present status of the media in Africa.
It is framed around the discussion of ownership of the media in Africa, political, socio-economic contexts and many other developments that influenced the operation of the media in colonial and post-independence Africa.
Each region of the continent is covered in a separate section beginning with an overview, and containing a collection of articles on ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œCharacters, cases and causesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â. Some regions get more attention than others.
The characters and struggles of some of AfricaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s journalism heroes are well documented.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Among the people whose stories are told are Kenneth Best from Liberia, AndrÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© Sibomana from Rwanda, William Dixon Colley from the Gambia, Lewis Odhiambo from Kenya and Sorious Samura, the Sierra Leonean journalist and film-maker who was a consultant for the film Blood Diamond.
The book paints a picture of how several problems inherited from the colonial era have come to threaten the health of the African media post independence. Although some of the problems that characterise our media today are of past origin, the book maintains a balance and notes that some of the threats ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œto the development of independent media and journalism in many parts of the continent today appear to include politicians, religious organisations and possibly commercial interests of dubious originÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
50 Years of Journalism also alludes to how foreign publications or media outlets have come to dominate at the expense of local media outlets. For instance, the SABC has come to develop a reach well beyond the borders of South Africa, even though its influence remains weaker than the BBC and other international media groups.
The book notes how the dominance of foreign media outlets in Africa has become a worrying factor. As a result many foreign owned media outlets have been accused of not being able to understand and articulate accurately the stories and cultures of Africa.
The book does not interrogate whether African media groups such as SABC are accurate and consistent in telling the real story about Africa, however. Sadly, the book does not robustly interrogate the question why foreign titles are so popular in Africa even though they are said to be inaccurate.
However, whether your interest is in journalism or not, 50 Years of Journalism will teach you a thing or two on how the African media has been framed in the past half centuryÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â since the independence of Ghana.
50 Years of Journalism: African media since GhanaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s independence, edited by Elizabeth Barratt and Guy Berger, is published by The African EditorsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Forum, Highway Africa and Media Foundation for West Africa.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Digital copies are available from the websites of these three groups.
* Phakamisa Ndzamela completed his Honours in journalism at Wits in 2007, and currently works on the campus newspaper Vuvuzela as an intern.