Newspapers, commercial and community broadcasters, bloggers, and online news services represent a driving force in the continent’s transition to more open political and economic systems. The African media business has become a hotbed of experimentation and innovation, with cellphones now challenging the traditional dominance of radio as information providers, even in the most remote rural areas. Professional, nonpartisan news services are essential to improving health, education, environmental protection, and democratic governance in Africa. Yet Africa’s media are facing immense challenges. Precarious finances and low salaries leave too many news organizations vulnerable to intimidation and corruption. Criminal libel and insult laws expose investigative journalists to punitive retaliation. In a number of countries, newspapers and radio stations still suffer arbitrary closure by government decree. Violence and threats against journalists are rarely investigated and prosecuted.
The event examined how African journalists are now organizing themselves to promote better legal, economic and professional environments for free media across the continent. Leading those efforts are pan-African media associations just established within the past few years: the Federation of African Journalists, the African Media Development Forum, the African Editors Forum, and the newly founded African Media Initiative (AMI), which will support collaboration among these groups and advocate on the media sector’s behalf. AMI is an unprecedented pan-African effort to strengthen independent media throughout the continent by addressing the sector’s serious economic and legal challenges on behalf of leading African media owners and executives who are committed to professional ethics and quality journalism in the public interest.
Amadou Mahtar Ba
African Media Initiative
World Bank Institute
Reagan-Fascell Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy;
East Africa Business and Media Training Institute, Tanzania
About the Panelists
Amadou Mahtar Ba is chief executive officer of the new African Media Initiative. Ba is also co-founder and president of AllAfrica Global Media, a multi-media content service provider, systems technology developer, and the largest distributor of African news and information worldwide. Prior to starting AllAfrica, Ba served as director of communications and marketing for Banque Internationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie du Sénégal from 1996 to 2000, which is a subsidiary of the French banking group BNP Paribas. From 1993 to 1996, Ba helped lead the successful restructuring and privatization of the Panafrican News Agency. He is representing Africa as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Council for the Future of Journalism and is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Knight International Journalism Fellowship, administered by the International Center for Journalists.
Eric Chinje currently leads the global media program at the World Bank Institute. Previously, he was the external affairs and communications manager in the World Bank’s Africa Region as well as the institution’s spokesperson on Africa. He returned to the World Bank after four years at the African Development Bank in Tunis, where he was head of the External Affairs and Communications Unit. He is on the Board of the African Media Initiative and is founding co-president of the African Media Leaders Forum. Chinje served as vice chair of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Africa Club from 1996 to 2002. He was editor in chief of Cameroon Television and a contributing correspondent for CNN World Report intermittently between 1987 and 1991. Chinje was a stringer for the BBC World Service, Voice of America, and Deutschewelle Radio. He is an officer of the Cameroon Order of Merit and an officer of the Dutch Order of Orange Nassau.
Reed Kramer is the chief executive officer and director of allAfrica.com. He was a founder, president and managing editor of Africa News Service, a non-profit U.S.-based agency producing award-winning news and information for broadcast and print media. Under his leadership, Africa News Service quickly adopted communications technologies through the development of Africa News Online—the first as well as the largest Africa-related information source on the Internet. He has reported regularly for The Washington Post, National Public Radio and the BBC and has served as a news consultant and guest for CNN, the Today show, Court TV and the NewsHour on public television. His economic and political reporting has appeared widely in major North American and international publications. Kramer is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Rosemary Mwakitwange is executive chairperson of the East Africa Business and Media Training Institute. Previously, she served as managing director of New Habari Media Group, Tanzania’s largest privately owned publishing company, which has advocated for good governance, multi-party democracy, corporate responsibility, and press freedom in Tanzania since 1993. Mwakitwange has gained a reputation for turning a faltering media company into a successful and financially strong organization, fighting unethical and corrupt practices by journalists, and working to support the restoration of professionalism among journalists in her country. A staunch believer in good corporate governance and an outspoken critic of corruption, Mwakitwange has worked tirelessly to promote a climate in which journalists are free from the influence of ruling party officials and business executives with close ties to government. She is currently a Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.