21 September, 2007
Steve Bantu Biko - a South African icon, political activist who believed in equality of all races and provision of equal opportunities for all citizens of South Africa - was brutally murdered on the 12th of September 1977 by the apartheid regime. Biko was a great man who had a vision for South Africa and its citizens.
Biko sacrificed his life, hopes and dreams so that you and I, the youth of South Africa can have a future and freedom of expression.It has been 30 years since his passing. Today South Africa is a free nation. South Africans enjoy many freedoms, but not all freedoms are exercised responsibly.
Would Steve Biko be content with the governance of South Africa? Would he be happy with the way South Africans use their freedoms.
What have you done further Biko's ideas?
When I think of what would Biko think today it's like thinking about Jesus. What I mean about this is that there were people who pretended to be Jesus's friends while they were hypocrites. Those were the people who said good things while in public but failed to implement action.
For me, wherever Biko is now, I think we both think the same way:
"It is better to have heart without words than having words without heart".
What I mean is what Jesus told His disciples when He said: "Some are just worshipping me with their 'huge' lips while their hearts are far away from me, and that is what people are doing these days. They just commemorate for the sake of commemoration, there is no meaning.
I also liked the article I read in City Press written on the 15 September by the columnist Khathu Mamaila which reads as follows:
... Some among us are either hypocrites or cowards or both...
One of the values of Biko’s contribution was to put the African at the centre, not periphery, of the unfolding cultural revolution.
There is a crusade, a total onslaught, on the very concept of being African. Only last week, those who had appointed themselves the guardians of the uncivilised and savage African were at it again.
They were calling for an end to the practice of virginity testing. They say the practice abuses children. What they conveniently forget to say is that the girls who participate in the reed dance and virginity testing go there of their own free will. They are not forced. In fact they are proud to participate in the event. But the practice is dismissed as alien because it is foreign to the dominant culture, which is Eurocentric. And because of that, it should be dismissed as barbaric and abandoned.The same applies to other African practices such as koma, or initiation. The general focus is on the negative – the deaths of initiates.
... So perhaps as we remember Biko and celebrate our national heritage, we should look closely at things that restore our collective Africaness. It is not enough to just say Biko was a great leader while failing to implement the small things that he tried to inculcate in us.Instead of being too ready to hero-worship Biko, we should honestly interrogate his ideas so that when we identify with his vision, our lives can align properly with his teachings. For now, the whole thing is superficial.
Great work Future Journalists keep it up!
14 September, 2007
September 12 marks three decades since the death of black consciousness icon, Steve Bantu Biko. While many choose to reflect on Biko’s strength of character and iron resolve there is a lesson to be learned in the infamous response of South Africa’s Minister of Justice, James “Jimmy” Kruger. Kruger stated that Biko’s death left him “cold”.
The former Justice Minister and his ilk, felt nothing at the time of Biko’s death.
30 years on, it is disturbing to see that this sentiment remains. Even more disturbingly, this sentiment remains with the youth. Young people are increasingly ignorant and apathetic about the sacrifices made by men and women as recently as 30 years ago. Disinterest in politics, current affairs and even history is rife. While not everyone is political, an understanding of South Africa's political history and climate may lead to greater understanding and co-operation.
Dwelling in the past will certainly accomplish nothing. Ignoring it, however, may accomplish as little.
Apathy is our greatest curse.
Being a Future Journalist is a more than a little daunting. It almost sounded like I was going to become an Editor of a major newspaper next week.
The Future Journalists are all students: first years, second years and third years from around South Africa who were chosen to work together on various media projects.
We have just attended the Highway Africa Conference in Grahamstown. We attended lectures, discussions and workshops on an array of topics such as blogging, gender issues and the changes in journalism due to new technology. We were lucky enough to meet national and international renowned journalists. City Press has given us the amazing chance to be able write for them and be published.
I may not be editing that paper yet, but with these opportunities available to us, it’s only a matter of time.
Our forefathers told stories of creation by looking into the stars as their distant guides for direction, but future journalists tell tales of civilization and innovation guided by mediums distinct to our time and space.
Highway Africa 2007 marks the birth of the Future Journalist Programme, an initiative by young and vibrant South African media students who tell stories of the world in their true essence as they unfold. However, faced with the dichotomy between new media forms and the traditional media, we have to find ways to dissolve this barrier and attain our positions as agents of an integrated form of reporting, that does not succumb to either the old or new but to both.
The heated discussion during this year's Highway Africa was whether blogging and citizen reporting should at all be considered as 'professional journalism' or merely as a hobby occupying a space to express individual feelings and opinionated commentary on current affairs. This argument generates from the 'apparent' lack of ethical knowledge and disciplinary standard procedure in terms of how bloggers and citizen journalists represent stories. However, digital storytelling should not be seen as a hindering approach that jeopardises the quality and professionalism of journalism (this issue forming the main theme of the conference).
We have shifted into an era of convergence, a revolution driven by technology that enables the flattening of hierarchical structures, where previously segregated media platforms are now merged in one medium, namely the internet. This movement doesn't entail the unification of content, certainly not. The media should keep pluralism at its highest where different voices tackle agendas from various angles, therefore allowing the public to decide for themselves. After all Africa is a large continent and is a hub of diverse people, languages, culture and religion.
Bloggers, as much as journalists have a functional role to play in the media and the society at large. As Ndesanjo Macha stated, during the Digital Citizen Indaba , humans have the urge to share and express what they see, feel and think, this being a continuation of an old African tradition. Those with the innate ability to tell stories must claim their prehistoric right to tell these stories and document this history, however bearing in mind that they are agents who are reporting in the twenty first century. In his talk, Ndesanjo called this shift as "Moving from rockpaintings to Mental Acrobatics".
Media reporting brings question to power and therefore should be done accordingly, avoiding the downfall of nations. This thought though, shouldn't limit citizen reporters in fulfilling their right to tell stories as they see them. After all, we can never agree on how to report, but can agree on the fact that every story deserves to be told.
The 2007 Highway Africa Conference, which attracts African journalists from all over the continent, took place the same week when South Africa commemorated the assassination of Steve Biko was vocal about freedom of expression.
Biko's famous quote of "I write what I like" is in line with what journalists are doing.
Although reporters cannot necessarily write what they like, their reports can contribute to changing public views and opinion which are the key drivers of democratic thought and discussion.
As African journalists we should be proud of ourselves and attempt to portray Africa positively rather than as a dark continent characterised by war, poverty and negativity.
I would like to think that if Biko were still alive he would be a politician who would write columns to correct the dominant Western opinion of Africa, and would who strive to do away with parachute journalism.
Digital media has an important role to play in promoting our country for 2010 and beyond.
Imagine the reach of the World Wide Web,with 1 173 109 925 users world wide according to Internet World Stats, we could use this medium of communication to promote our country. With the technology at our disposal i.e digital cameras, blogs and video clips we could help in promoting the country and various venues where the matches will be held.
Let us use this technology for our benefit, let us use it for the good of our country. Let them see, let them know and let them come. You have the tools, now use them.
See you soon.
Each September Africa relocates to Grahamstown during Rhodes University's annual Highway Africa conference. The diverse combination of Africans blended together to catapult such an experiential and memorable event. Apparently Zambia has 72 languages and Ki-Swahili is the most spoken language in Africa.
I don't think I would have known that if I wasn't here.
Highway Africa is a conference that gives African media an opportunity to share views and ideas. Presentations were informative to both current and future jounalists.
Participants discussed what needs to be done by journalists to perform their job effectively. The event also offered an opportunity to network and interact with reporters from over 42 African countries.
If Steve Biko were alive today, he would have been a father of four (don't ask me why though).
He would have been a political journalist rather than a politician because today's politics are completely different from what he stood for.
He wouldn't be intimidated into silence by the government and big business. He would continue to write what he liked. And his people would be his first priority.
12 September, 2007
The dystopian chorus tends to emanate from an old guard who sees journalism as an immutable practice based on fixed values and ideal principles. They nostalgise about the purity of the past and relate how journalism is threatened by new technologies and the young upstarts who challenge the status quo.
There is nothing new in this. The monks who wrote books by hand were not thrilled with Gutenburg and his movable type. Radio hacks had their nose bent out of joint by television, and less than two decades ago, the transition to PCs and desktop publishing offended the sensibilities of many newspaper sub-editors.
Change is inevitable. A thoughtful and critical examination of the impact of any technology on the established value and quality of an existing practice such as journalism needs to be considered - especially in developing contexts such as Africa.
What can be added through ICTs?
What could be lost?
How can old and new coexist?
The solution is never either/or but will continue to color newsroom cultures for years to come.
The future of journalism belongs to those who believe in the ethical values of journalism, who competently 'precision storygather' and 'storytell' in the public interest using multiple modalities, and who have the balls to bravely tell the "African story".
The African story is not just about the elite, big business and breaking events. It is about how power affects us all and about how African citizens are every day reclaiming their dignity after centuries of feudal, colonial and authoritarian repression.