No Easy Life for Journalists in Africa

Kanuma, Shyaka
September 2004
Nieman Reports;Fall2004, Vol. 58 Issue 3, p37
This article highlights difficulties in the life of independent journalists in Africa. In many parts of the region, those who set out to become journalists with the independent press better be prepared to work with media organizations whose operations are hobbled in various ways. Problems range from logistical to material, and reporters and editors at these news organizations operate in an environment in which active hostility from government and others is the norm. Government-controlled media have much better funding, and the journalists who work there find better facilities and an easier life. But it seems something of an oxymoron to call the practices of the government- owned press journalism, since what they do is churn out propaganda that serves not the public but the regime that owns and controls them. With some exceptions, independent media in Africa fail to receive substantial advertising revenue because they write or broadcast in markets where the money needed to support them is not forthcoming and where few people have the disposable incomes to buy news publications. In Rwanda, a person will never become rich by becoming a journalist. The situation there tends to perpetuate a vicious cycle in which poorly paid journalists soon lose their motivation to do the work they started out doing, and they become susceptible to practices like accepting monetary inducements to write stories favorable to those individuals or organizations paying these favors. Soon this lessens a publication's credibility, which in turn means even fewer people will buy the product. Many of these independent newspapers have closed their offices after only a few years in operation. However, even problems as difficult as these would be overcome were it not for the antagonism that most African governments have for freethinking journalists and independent media houses.


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