Reporting on democratic transition: is the African media fit, unfit or defeated?
Reporting on democratictransition: is the African media fit, unfit or defeated? Denis Kadima Executive DirectorElectoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) www.eisa.org.za
Outline of the Presentation1) Trends in democratisation in Africa2) African media’s reporting on democratic transition3) Challenges & Opportunities for the African media
Trends in democratisation in Africa (1)• Democratic transition and citizens’ engagement are often better observed and assessed during electoral processes• Elections are the ultimate process that validates the democratic DNA of a country• In Africa there is a growing commitment to the holding of more and better elections (AU, PAP, SADC, EAC, ECOWAS)• The holding of multiparty elections used to be an exception. Today it is the rule, the norm, a routine. As a result, it is easier and quicker to count African countries not holding multiparty elections than those conducting them.
Trends in democratisation in Africa (2)• A dozen of African countries have held credible and successful elections over the past few years, with defeated incumbents stepping down peacefully (e.g. Senegal, Lesotho, Zambia and Ghana)• North Africa led the “Arab Spring”. Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have all now held competitive multiparty elections• Although there are still many setbacks on the democratic front, democratisation in Africa is clearly moving in the right direction• Democratic transition in today‘s Africa is no longer simply about the QUANTITY of elections but about their QUALITY• While Africa has been the largest field of democratic experiments, we hardly learn about positive developments from the African media which tends to be too “localised” in yet a “globalised” world.
Is the African media fit, unfit or defeated? (1)• The trends above seem not to be appropriately noticed and positively analysed by African media• African media is still heavily dependent on negative and partisan news coverage• Stimulating democratic experiments and experiences are poorly disseminated for lessons learning purposes• Inadequate technical skills to give insightful perspectives on complex governance and transition issues in Africa• Too many clichés, emotions and partisanship in covering democratic developments
Is the African media fit, unfit or defeated? (2)• One unsuccessful election in Africa (Kenya, Zimbabwe or Cote d’Ivoire) tends to be seen as another failed African election. Yet a successful election in one country is often presented as an “exceptionalism”. African media also perpetuates such stereotypes.• Excessive reliance on the global mainstream media such as BBC, CNN and France 24• This has resulted in news coverage by way of “cut & paste”, thus perpetuating Afro-pessimism through stories of poverty, hunger, diseases, wars , electoral fraud and undemocratic rule.• Is the African media fit, unfit or defeated? Media professionals to answer.
Challenges & Opportunities for the African media (1)CHALLENGES• Repressive laws against media and journalists• Arrests, tortures and assassination of journalists• Under-resourced African media having to operate along side with gigantic global media houses and cable networks• Limited reach of African media: cannot set an agenda• Difficult access to key politicians/newsmakers• Strong competition as African audiences have more choice.
Challenges & Opportunities for the African media (2)OPPORTUNITIES• Better internet connectivity & cell phone penetration• Better educated population in a sizeable number of countries• Bolder citizens’ engagement in politics (e.g. North Africa and South Africa)• Existence of engaged media watchdog organisations• Existence of a sizeable number of African democratisation experts• Opportunity for African media to position themselves and change the African story ==========================================