05 July, 2010

The glory of Highway Africa

by Anorth Mabunda

My second day in Grahamstown ( 05 July 2010) has been marked by an opening of the biggest media gathering in Africa dubbed the Highway Africa, which aims to address the African media trends, developments and more challenging issues facing the African media in the realm of globalisation. This conference aims to abolish the centre-periphery situation whereby the flow of information and communications is dominated by the West/North and promoting African news by Africans
As a fledgling journalist and privileged to be part of the2010 Future Journalists Programme, this will definitely give me an exposure to these media trends and challenges and thus get me in touch with the vast global phenomenon,” Media”, as many of its professionals and experts come in hordes for a wonderful debate. This is a stepping stone to entrenching my knowledge, particularly writing skills and assimilating the new emerging media trends. It is funny how I blogged and tweeted for the first time since birth yesterday, thanks to Anele our FJP assistant for dimming my ignorance , I think this is a goodbye to my face book page.
Day one of the conference broadened my mind, I had some questions to ask and critical comments to add during the proceedings but I had a fear to stand up and voice my concerns,” I limited my own freedom of speech”.

Mathatha Tsedu gave what I sow as a bias presentation during the topic; Truth is the first casualty of war: journalism and media in times of conflict. He blamed African journalists for not doing enough in terms of coverage in times of war, omitting the fact the some African states have introduced draconian legislations against the freedom of expression, journalists are being victimised and censored during war times.

I like the theme of the conference, African Voices in the global media space; it is the concept I always wanted to see being shared on the table, concerning the negative effects caused by the 21st century epoch of globalisation which gives the West more power over the developing Africa.

African voices needs to be heard, we should speak for ourselves because no one knows Africa better than us. But the main focus in the conference seems to be on introducing Information and Communications Technologies such as the Internet which is a brilliant idea but what about the issue of access. If this “African Voice” is meant to speak to the elite then for me it is not a voice at all. Africa is characterised by a huge digital divide which is favouring the rich elite and living behind the vast poor communities. The majority of poor Africans hardly have access to the internet. I assume that new African channels by Africans will be introduced but where?: on DSTV where the majority doesn’t have access to, how about working closely with all so-called big independent media and telecommunications companies in Africa, like Telkom, MTN and Media 24 in order to introduce freely accessible 24 hour Africa news channels. My concern was also outlined during the discussion process by former Ghanaian president John Okufour. Mapule Mbalati also reached my point,” we are more focussed on entertainment rather the education and relevant news bulletins” but any way that’s a topic for another day.

My first priorities of the day were met in seconds. I wanted to meet some of my favourite role players in the African media, Joe Thloloe, the SA press ombudsman and head of the media-24, Mathatha Tsedu. I approached them professionally and so they didn’t hesitate or seem to doubt giving me their business cards.
I am looking forward to learning more and meeting more media professionals during this conference. I am no longer going to sit back and form part of the passive audience, I am going to ask more questions and write more on this blog, na khensa.

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