Is Africa’s Media Coverage Fair & Balanced?: U.S. and African Media Leaders Gather at The World Bank to Discuss Possible Contributions to Stereotyping Africa

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Sep. 24, 2013

Media Contact: Carol Crabbe

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Is Africa’s Media Coverage Fair & Balanced?

U.S. and African Media Leaders Gather at The World Bank to Discuss Possible Contributions to Stereotyping Africa

Led by Wilson Global Communications USA and partners from the Constituency for Africa, and the African Media Initiative, the focused Media Roundtable discussion highlighted needs to improve media coverage of Africa.

(WASHINGTON) – Just two days before the heinous terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya, media leaders, journalists and strategic thinkers from the United States, Africa and the African Diaspora gathered at the World Bank headquarters in Wash., D.C. to discuss the question: Is Africa’s media coverage fair and balanced? After tracking media coverage of the siege of the Westgate Mall by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, that question – and answer – is even more pertinent for examination.

Author and journalist Michael Deibert, who has reported from Africa since 2007 and extensively in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), expressed his angst in a letter to the New York Times editor on the coverage of the Kenyan attack.

“Quite honestly, as a journalist who has reported on conflict for going on quite a number of years, I was shocked and dismayed by this,” Deibert wrote on Sept. 22. “Would the New York Times run photos of blood-soaked dead white Americans after one of the many mass shootings that occur in the United States? I doubt it. That they did so after the mass killings in Nairobi yesterday is very troubling, not just to me, but also to many other journalists, academics and analysts who focus on Africa.”

Deibert is a white journalist, and continued to write that “there are ways to depict violence so that people are not immediately recognizable to their loved ones…” and that the victims “deserve some dignity in death. One can show dead bodies without showing their faces, leaving people confronted for the rest of their lives with images of their family members and other loved ones soaked in blood and torn asunder.”

Deibert is representative of the various concerns expressed by 31 journalists and media leaders discussing the issue of Africa’s media coverage at the invitation-only roundtable organized by Wilson Global Communications USA as a partner with the Constituency for Africa (CFA) Ronald H. Brown series and the African Media Initiative (AMI) of Nairobi, Kenya.

[featured]“For nearly two decades, Wilson Global has been an outspoken advocate for more fair and balanced stories on Africa,” said Ms. Julia Wilson, CEO and founder of Wilson Global Communications USA who lived in South Africa several years before expanding her international public relations services to Ghana and other African countries. “Our discussions were very timely, and we will continue to press forward to change perceptions. Many people believe the media has wittingly or unwittingly played a particularly debilitating role in shaping Africa’s perception as the ‘Dark Continent’ of war, famine, disease and corruption that has severely hindered foreign direct investment, trade, and Diaspora engagement. But those of us who have worked and lived in Africa, and leading economists, acknowledge that Africa continues to demonstrate success in stable governments, rising GDP, and is tapped as the new frontier for trade and investment in the 21st Century.”[/featured]

“The inclusion of a media discussion on how Africa is being portrayed in the media in this year’s Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series is long overdue and very welcome,” said Mr. Melvin Foote, president of the Constituency for Africa. “Its time for Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora to tell their own story, and to take ownership of their image in the news.”

According to the World Bank, Africa is home to six of the world’s fastest growing economies, citing the African countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The African Development Bank (AfDB) also projects that most of Africa will attain lower-and middle-class majorities by 2030.

The Media Roundtable discussions highlighted traditional portrayals of Africa in mainstream and specialty media, and explored ways American and African media can work together as valuable resources for providing balanced news stories that reflect Africa today.

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About Wilson Global Communications

Wilson Global Communications, LLC is an international strategic public relations and marketing communications consulting firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1994 in Johannesburg, South Africa by Julia A. Wilson, a former print and broadcast journalist, Wilson Global Communications provides strategic communications services in the Americas, China, Europe, and various countries in Africa. Wilson Global Communications specializes in public and diplomatic relations, international educational exchange program development, special event management and promotion, international trade and cultural mission management and media relations and development, including television and radio show creation and production.

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About Africa Media Initiative

The African Media Initiative (AMI) is a pan-African programme that seeks to strengthen the continent’s private and independent media sector from an owner and operator perspective to promote democratic governance, social development and economic growth. It does so through a set of strategic activities aimed at transforming the media and communications landscape on the continent. AMI’s overall goal is to promote the development of pluralistic media as a necessary and critical ingredient of democratic governance, as well as economic and human development in Africa.

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About Constituency for Africa

The Constituency for Africa (CFA) was founded in 1990, when a group of concerned Africanists, interested citizens and Africa-focused organizations developed a strategy to build organized support for Africa in the United States.  CFA was charged with educating the U.S. public about Africa and U.S. policy on Africa; mobilizing an activist constituency for Africa; and fostering cooperation among a broad-based coalition of American, African and international organizations, and individuals committed to the progress and empowerment of Africa and African people. CFA founded and sponsors the annual Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series which is held in conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Legislative Week each September.

More Information on Constituency for Africa