October 21st, 2010
09:55 AM GMT
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Last week we ran a story about a successful newspaper in Mozambique that is given out for free. It is an inspiring business model – not just for the good journalism – but also because there is a huge element of social uplifting behind the paper’s motivation.

The publisher Erik Charas proudly told us that in the districts and regions where Verdade is distributed, there was a proven link between reading the newspaper and increased political involvement. For example, the newspaper empowers people to ask more from their local governments, to demand more as citizens.

Importantly, more people also turned out to vote, and significantly more women voted in areas where Verdade was distributed. For Charas, this is an important aspect of his publishing model.

In other parts of Southern Africa, newspapers are printed for a host of other reasons.

For example, Zimbabwe’s newspapers have, in recent years, been heavily controlled by the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANUPF), but the media space has opened with the launch of Newsday this year.

Kenya has a vibrant newspaper industry that often challenges the government and has a history of exposing corruption. South Africa also has a strong investigative culture in its newspaper industry, which has recently been threatened by the ruling ANC, which has become hostile to the continuing exposé of corrupt politicians or the politically connected.

At the moment there is a slight cooling of the war between politicians and the media, with the government pressurizing the media to ‘self regulate’ better. Either way, the media landscape in South Africa is fraught with tensions that point to difficulties in the country’s young democracy.

So my question is ... has the media in Africa opened up in recent years? Do you think it is more free? Or is there still a culture of fear in reporting the truth or uncovering dirty deals in governments?

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soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Poussir

    The Kenyan media scene has transformed amazingly in the past 20 odd years, moving from an intimidating atmosphere under Moi to a free for all we see now.

    It is rare to hear of editors being harassed or jailed for running stories critical of the government and even rarer to miss a headline exposing corruption in higher places.

    Lets not hoodwink ourselves to believe that we have freedom though!

    What is happening right now is that opposing members of an uneasy coalition are using (and have been using) the media as a big stick to beat up opposition.

    Scores are being settled by ink as 'vital' documents gets leaked and 'secret' sources spill the beans to the media on grand corruption.

    Once we get a stable government with a weak opposition, which will be good for Kenyan, then unfortunately the muzzles will be dusted off and editors will go back to more mundane headlines.

    October 29, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  2. Emmanuel Oga

    The media in Nigeria is scandalously free. The only problem the media have in Nigeria is the media. They have refused to use their liberty to the full, they still feel this is too good to be true and that some soldier is coming to blow their families away if they don't stop.

    October 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  3. Ed Makauvich

    in Kenya we can live without the Government, Electricity,and other luxuries but not without the MEDIA.Kenya`s men and women of the fourth estate are the greatest !!!!!!

    October 29, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  4. Masende Makhulu

    It is better than it used be, when journalists could be summarily executed...In Southern Africa we have Zimbabwe and Swaziland where the media is completely muzzled...The media forces that gave the black majority power are now being mentioned by the ANC as enemies...This should be a major concern...What with forces inside the ANC agitating for censorship laws. Kenyan media are in constant battle with risk to life and family. Look at the propaganda machine Kagame is building in Rwanda. His cohorts have tarnished every possible opponent with 1994 genocide links allegations. This is clearly by design. Nigeria is so disorganised as a nation, it's not just that the government is corrupt. Things are so rotten that the media there cannot be trusted....

    October 30, 2010 at 9:26 pm |
  5. robera

    The problem in Africa's media is,they lack secularity.most of them are either for or against the ruling government and this affects the neutrality of the views they share to the community.hence,they aggravate community divergence.

    November 3, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
  6. vinnie kerich

    when free media in Africa is mentioned, the first country that comes to mind is Kenya media. in the past three years or so I have seen tremendous change and transformation in the kenyan media. The Kenyan government under President Kibaki is also very cooperative giving journalists a free and a conducive environment. I haven't heard of any reporter or journalist being harassed in a very long time.
    Media in Kenya also plays a very important role in conducting investigation. Its mentioned that the leading local newspaper 'DAILY NATION' was the first paper to report that there was corruption cases in the foreign affairs ministry.... a few months late the Minister has be suspended. That's jus one example among man. Althogh can't compaire it with the western media....Kenyan Media is heading there..!!

    November 5, 2010 at 8:11 am |
  7. geoffrey otieno onyonge(siir jeff aka goldcase)

    One cannot expect the sun to change its resurrection and dying point,africans believe in the moment and journalist in the african cycle are like animals in the jungle who lets the rules of the jungle dictate to them what to do rather than change the jungle.They mostly think of today and play to political whims that control their media houses.Corruption is highlighted with an aim of settling political scores with a branch of the political class rather than as a duty to the general public.Media owners are still inclined to their various ethnic bases and there is no way the branch can let its root be chopped off without letting out a cry of apathy....They are profit driven and anyone who puts money first lacks thirst for justice and do not hold any form of moral fibre ...so no the tides will never change

    November 6, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  8. Andre B

    Whereever the US funded terrorism the media became a flop.

    The simple reason for that is that a terrorist organizations are not founding on good education, and cannot think far enough ahead to realize that all moral sollutions rely on proper education, and the building of productive infrastructures.

    Funding terrorism overthrows power, but it does not bring the flowers of engineering, education and produce etc to a country.

    So many African countries where the US is funding terrorists eventually fail at building rainbow countries, and as a voter requirement they then commit to theft, and landgrabs to maintain voter support.

    Killing off the media to maintain loyalty thus remains necessary.

    However, this isn't bad for the US, as gold and diamonds can then be swopped for guns and food handouts.

    its a better deal than something like honest reward.

    November 8, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  9. Geoffrey Nyabuti

    in africa and kenya in particular under kibaki's watch, the media has grown and it is like the needed vicious opposition whenever there's something fishy ibn the government. i guess other african countries need to copy the kenyan media

    November 12, 2010 at 8:46 pm |
  10. Jellyfish

    Whereas I can't say with certainty that African media is getting more free I can say with certainty that Kenya's media is or has gotten more free. Under President Kibaki the media is very free and with the passage of the new constitution their freedom is guaranteed. I do however feel that some sections of the media are biased but then again this is the case even in the west with the likes of Fox and MSNBC. However with increasing democracy in Africa there is an overall feeling that the media is getting more independent and free each passing day. The increased competition within all sections of the media be they electronic or print has lead to improved quality generally in most African countries.

    November 14, 2010 at 2:40 am |
  11. emeka

    Free and independent journalism isn't yet a reality in West Africa. The main culprit is state control/ownership of a huge chunk of the media with the widest coverage- the radio. As the majority of West Africans live in rural villages mainly accessible (mediawise) by radio, the freedom of that media is crucially important for us. And when one considers the fundamental illegality and corrupt nature of most African governments, the danger of state control/ownership of a huge portion of that media becomes apparent.

    The lethal combination of repressive libel and media laws, corrupt judiciaries and a thriving 'assasins market' completes a very bleak picture. If we could afford it for everyone, the uncensored access we enjoy to the internet would be a welcome ray of sunshine. Hence there is hope that the increasing popularity and affordability of mobile phones will work wonders for media freedom in Africa. And quite possibly cell phones may yet provide the strings that will pull down the illegal regimes of Africa. Who knows... true democracy in a corruption-free West Africa might be a 'txt msg' away! Who Knows...?

    November 16, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  12. Petit

    Absolute freedom in journalism in bad.There should be control and limit to everything :Western media have freedom , but they use it to promote wrong ideas and cultures .We africans have culture and this our media should respect, some media are backed by the western ideas to spread their culture to african and such should be hindered. Western media want to promote Homosexuality and push it into our culture .African culture is against that and they should be stopped

    November 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  13. Kwadjo

    I don't really know about Africa, but I know the Ghanaian media are among the most free in the world. Maybe too free for their own good.

    November 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  14. emeka

    @ Mr Petit: What is wrong with homosexuality between two consenting adults within the same bounds of decency imposed on heterosexual people? How does it hurt you or anyone else when a man/woman chooses to have intimate relations with another person of the same sex? The heterosexual majority(?) have no more right to impose their sexual preferences on the homosexual minority(?) than the minority would have if it was the majority. If your bigotry is based on christianity or islam, I have news for you: both religions are alien cultures to Africa.

    Our ancestors were intelligent people who had a plural world view and respected the right of people to pursue happiness as they deemed fit, providing others were not hurt. Their tolerance and respect for choices different from theirs made it possible for Africans like yourself to become christians. If your religion forbids homosexuality why not leave judgment to your god?

    November 18, 2010 at 3:33 am |
  15. Andre B

    @Petit. Petit you say that there should be control and limits to everything... That's exactly what the purpose of the media is.

    The media is the average joe in the streets method of keeping an eye on his supposed representatives... the government. If the guy in the street's voted president is telling him to nolonger know whats best for himself he becomes a slave to a tyrant.

    If you don't like a newspaper... don't buy it. If newspapers sell poor or fabricated stories... don't buy it.

    But don't shut down newspapers because because some goofball says so.

    Did you really vote for such a person so he could stab out your eyes?

    Free media goes hand in hand with a democracy. The purpose of the democracy is to empower the people.

    a rule by the people for the people.

    if media fails, then democracy fails, and then the people fail.

    November 19, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  16. Debby Debz

    The media in Africa is getting to be more free. An example is the Kenyan media which is trully becoming free except for a few media bodies that are run by individuals who want to set their own agendas and pursue personal interests.

    One reason is the constitutional law which supports the media's role of educating, informing and entertaining without the government or any other institution interrupting with it's affairs.

    I think if other African countries embraced this through their constitutional laws, the media would be free to perform it's role effectively.

    November 19, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  17. John White

    I'm hoping that news via social media, especially audio-visual and cell phone accessible media for the illiterate, will similarly empower people, although it's clear that authoritarians can and will restrict access and insinuate misinformation.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
  18. Hilton

    @emeka yes so much is wrong with homosexuality. how can a man be attracted to another man yet even animals know that a male is a male and a female is a female. Homos are worse than wild animals because they are a cancer to society, without moral fibre or any sense of religious consciousness. they are sick and must be re-oriented. what will our children learn?that man must sleep with another man then reproduce...how disgusting !! thumbs up to Ugandan media for exposing these creatures who don't deserve to be called human

    November 23, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
  19. Dulen Ogbari

    what kind of English is 'more free.?' Should it not be freer? Instead of 'more free.' CNN do more editing please.

    November 23, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
  20. Ilda Maria Varela

    My God, Please bless me God, How can anybody be proud of editting a free news paper for people of Mozambique when millions of people in that very country are diying everyday og hunger, ilness and absolut poverty.

    Over 65% of Mozambican citizens cannot read nor write. Over 80 % have no acceptable homes. They neither have water to drink and wash their clothes nor water for personal higiene. They do not have electricity, allthough Mozambique is the country supplying South Africa Malawi, Zambia and others in the region with electricity from the Hidrioletric of Cahora Bassa.

    The majority of people of Mozambique in Mozambique and abroad does not have bread, milk for the breakfast, nor medicine to cure simple malaria. Is it not peculiar, that someone has the courage to spend money only on printing free news paper and feel happy and supper proud about it?

    " Importantly and significantly, more people and women turned to vote"
    No. That is not "Verdade" Why does Mr Charas have to lie so much to the entire world? Everyone from Mozambique and those who know the country do know how elections are curried on in that country. The population is mobilized to vote; there are especialists living their homes and families for weeks if not monthes only to mobilize and motivate the population to vote. The ceremonies of votation are very interesting and one of the few intertaiments to the population outside and inside the big cities.

    Accoordind to the article "the news paper empowers people to ask more from their government and demand more as citizens". That is a big fat lie, because: 1. Mozambican population is not composed only of the few people who can read good enough to read a news paper. 2. Mozambican people have allways being asking for just a little bit more from their government. Unfortunatelly they ask but are not given, as well as they demand and noone hears them, pure and simply because of 'that' what people like Mr Eric Charas are busy doing to the country and the people of Mozambique since 1977.

    When the people of countries like Mozambique ask, the only ones who are given are people like Mr Charas, who derefter go to the countries only to improve their own economies and their countries finances. Actually the Governments of countries like Mozambique are being openly and freely abused and missused both polically, financialy socialy, culturally, and naturally through opportunists like Mr Eric Charas.

    Mr Charas has criated his own well paid job in Mozambique, therefore it is time he starts talking and editting the truth or "verdades".

    The comparison Mr Charas make betwen Mozambique Quenia south Africa and Zimbabwe is not only very poor, but also show how free the media in general and his own media is in Africa.

    Why call the governments of Southern Africa for Corrupts, when the World Bank and all say; Governmental NGO's control and plan every single cent the countries produce and receive everyday?

    I have no Idea of Mr Eric Charas Country of birth. All I know is that most of aid's projects in southern Afriva region are conducted by Skandinavian coutries. The projects envolve millions and billions of dollars every year, but the countries are only getting more and more poor and miserable. Aid's are turning into AIDS.

    United States of America, please intervene urgently. Southern Africa, especially Mozambique need you now. Tomorrow can be too late.

    December 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm |

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