Lately there has been a lot of talk on the need for western media to change its representation of the African continent. Personally I’ve been engaged in conversations with western colleagues regarding this issue and my reaction has usually been the same, “they are positive stories out there, why not focus on these?”
Their reaction has always been more or less the same, “we are defensive and hypersensitive,” and maybe to an extent we are but so is everyone who feels the reports on our continent are usually biased to suit a stereotypical narrative. So many times we come out to attack these reports usually from an emotional point of view that seems to portray that we get uncomfortable when faced with reality.
Where at some point what might be reported is usually out of ignorance such as the time when Fox news and CNN called, “Kenya a hotbed of terror,” during Obama’s visit, other times the slums portrayed are not fabricated stories. But the problem with this is that the western journalist will usually refer to one country’s issues as a demographic problem.
At the beginning of the year I was at a youth writers forum in Namibia and one of the major components of the discussion was the need to change this narrative, where as I agree that such a factor is called for , maybe our focus should be on creating a more realist approach that we can have full autonomy over.
As a journalist I’ve come to learn that unfortunately bad news sells so in this case we shouldn’t expect much from a western media house whose job is to make its citizens feel better about themselves, a story of an African child starving or going to bed hungry consoles an American viewer who has to chose between voting Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. To them that story is comforting as it portrays a place worse off than their current state.
Recently I followed a conversation between some of our continent’s media heavyweights, Trevor Ncube from Zimbabwe, Charles Onyango Obbo and Robert Kabushenga from Uganda where the three discussed the need for an African issue focused media house, in fact they went as far as making pledges for this cause. Whereas the efforts of the trio should be acknowledged, I for one believe for this to be a success the political will and support from our government’s is needed.
Before we were introduced to Al-Jazeera, CCTV and Russia Today many of us looked at the Middle East as one of the most oppressive places to live, Chinese as people under bondage or Russians as the unhappiest people on earth and all this because of the way the media portrayed them. But this seems to change after the arrival of the three media houses that are backed by their own governments, so until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.