WE journalists write stories, the big, the small, the controversial and sometimes the inconsequential. But we rarely make news unless we have been abducted, arrested or killed in political battles.
The New Vision published a story on a reversal exercise at the Smart Partnership Dialogue at Speke Resort Munyonyo (Uganda) where the Heads of State in attendance got to ask the journalists questions.
The presidents seemed to focus on why journalists report bad stories about Africa. The most notable question came from Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his no holds barred attack on the Western media.
“There are agencies like BBC, CNN,” he said. “When you act as agents of those kinds of media, do you have the option of being impartial?” he asked. “If they are pursuing a hostile attitude, do you protect the interests of Africa because you are Africans? Can you report truthfully or factually or do you fear losing your jobs?”
He urged African journalists not to serve neo-colonialist or imperialist interests.
Well Mr Mugabe should know that the media, despite the times when their reporting may be flawed, don’t owe their allegiance to these leaders. When he talks about imperialist interests, Mugabe should know that the media serves the public and not him or any other leaders.Â Â
To an ordinary person and indeed to the media, Mugabe and imperialists are the same. He arrests opposition members for simply opposing him and uses violence as a tool of oppression.
Like many other African leaders, he believes he is the only one with a vision for the continent and thus continues to stifle debate and proper political participation.
Similarly many leaders give the shares in the best companies to their relatives and cronies, and appoint leaders on tribal lines. So how is all this different from imperialism? The difference is that the colonial imperialism was foreign and this is homegrown. I happen to believe the homegrown imperialism is actually more painful.
Mugabe and other African leaders actually owe their rise and their prolonged stay to imperialism. They were students of imperialists and they continue to benefit because, just like imperialists, they believe they are never wrong and that they know what is best for us.
They profit from this Western imperialism because it is their ever-present excuse for failure to move Africa forward. So the media must treat leaders like Mugabe the same as they do any other kind of imperialist.
Â Of course he has a point on the ability of African journalists to change the whole coverage of Africa as a continent of disease, despair and poverty but he cannot expect positive coverage when he continues to spread mayhem and fails the unity government.
Where there’s good being done it indeed deserves attention but the media cannot be used as a tool to downplay the impact of bad rulers.
Indeed the coverage has little to do with whether African journalists are putting Africa first or not. Mugabe should know that bad news travels faster, as a saying in my village goes.
- This article was recently published in Uganda’s Independent newspaper.
BY ROSEBELL KAGUMIRE