By Mbali Mzinyane
A panel of speakers from four different countries gathered during the Highway Africa conference panel session yesterday to discuss the media’s role as a partner to effect government policy change.
The workshop reflected the media’s role of six countries namely, South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya.
On the panel was Catherine Mwesigwa Kizza, deputy editor of New Vision newspaper in Uganda, South African science writer Leonie Joubert, Ghanaian chief reporter for Ghana News Agency, Linda Asante-Agyei and Wisdom Chimgwede, senior investigative journalist of Malawi’s National Publications Limited.
The revelatory discussion was based around suggestive ideas of bringing about better governmental policies that reflect society’s needs through the collaboration of the media and civil society organisations (CSO’s).
The panellists discussed how the media within their respective countries was working with civil society to address issues that are often marginalised and bring to attention the day-to-day problems that have risen due to other changes such as urban-rural divide within society.
“There is a big gap between the policy makers and the voiceless, and that is where the role of the media comes in”, Asante-Agyei said during her discussion of how Ghana News Agency is working with CSO’s to address societal issues in order to influence policy makers.
However, the question of the media retaining its independence whilst being involved with CSOs was highlighted during commentary made by delegates attending the panel session.
“The question to ask ourselves is if media is part of civil society and if media can work with CSO’s and the answer to both these questions is ‘yes’. However, media and CSOs should not be friends”, said Chimgwede. Chimgwede, along with the other panellists emphasised how media should remain true to their identity and retain their independence whilst fulfilling their role as reporters.