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Media representatives share poignant lessons on their role in diversity management during elections

Addis Ababa, 03 October 2011 (ECA)

Media actors from across the continent concluded a 2-day forum in Nairobi, Kenya during which they reflected on their own role in managing diversity during elections as part of ongoing consultations and research that will feed into the forthcoming African Governance Report –AGR III.

Held on the theme, Elections and the Management of Diversity in Africa, the participants shared candid personal accounts that highlightedthe complexities and the challenges of remaining ethical and objective in the height of conflict, or while covering electoral controversies.

Kenyan journalists in particular highlighted the lessons learnt during the post-election violence the country went through in 2007 /2008.

“None of us was prepared for the events that occurred, coverage was complex and none of us knew what we were expected to do – it is unfair to blame the media for the failures of government institutions,” they said.

Major media outlets decided to shift reporting methods and employed self-censorship when referring to incidents and atrocities. “We made deliberate efforts to avoid naming ethnicities, preferring geographical references or general terms such as ‘communities’ in order to unify the country,” the meeting learnt.

While the 90s fought state hijacking of the media, the new battle-front today is control of content by big business and the danger of short-changing the public and not providing a public good, noted Political Science Professor, Adigun Agbaje.

“The media gets crucified constantly, but it is often difficult to be remain 100% objective whenmedia owners are looking over your shoulder, or when a member of your community is one you have to report on,” said the Nation Media Group’s Emmanuel Juma.

Debates emerged on the emergence of social media, which traditional print and electronic media actors view as threatening to “quality, professional journalism.”

But as underscored by Omoyele Sowore, founder of Sahara Reporters and Daudi Were from Ushahidi.com, new media can play a complimentary role and does not need to replace established traditional media. In addition, most mainstream media have embraced social media as it delivers information faster and in a more accessible and affordable manner.

“During elections or major crisis events, we have been able to work with citizens to input real-time reports during elections on our platform, and linking mal-practices with authorities,” said Mr. Were.”

The workshop was held in the context of an ongoing research project in 42 countries, which aims to deepen understanding of democracy, elections and diversity management in Africa. The findings are currently being collated through extensive surveys and will be published in the third edition of the African Governance Report (AGR-III). The report in its methodology will include the views of the media in its analysis.

Issued by : ECA Information and Communication Service

Publié le 3 octobre 2011

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