By Lucas Anuforo
The media world especially, the West has misjudged, misrepresented and misinterpreted almost every event that is taking place on the African soil. Africa a continent with much-chequered history has been the focus of deluded Western media propaganda.
Despite the largeness of the Continent and its richness, both in human and natural resources, the Western media only portray Africa as a continent of poverty, natural disasters, war, diseases and famine. The consequences this false narrative ideology had led Africa being seen as an over dependant on the Western powers for all her needs and more so as a continent that cannot take charge of its own destiny both politically, economically, and otherwise.
However, many people in the civilised society mostly the youth lack good knowledge of Africa, the culture, and their ways of life. And they never intend to visit the continent due to certain negative pictures being painted on Africa courtesy, of the Western media through cable news programmes, the movie industries, the internet and the print media. All these are just for their selfish interest.
This dogmatic approach by Western media has pigeonholed Africa as a dark continent. Africa is regarded as a continent of crisis, tribal anarchy, civil war, political instability, brazen corruption and lack of competent leadership. Whereas it could be traced that civilization started from Egypt that’s why Africa was said to be the cradle of civilization. Some school of thought believe that such false representation of Africa by the Western media have created a negative impact on Africans especially those who travelled outside the continent in search of new lives to be racially discriminated in all facets of life. The viewpoints taken by these powerful Western media through the representation by some editors, journalist and politicians edify the belief that Africa cannot take a bigger challenge on the world stage.
It is true that Africa has encountered many crises both in armed conflict, civil unrest, political instability, diseases and famine. Perhaps the situation would have been managed, if not for the inaccurate and deceptive ways the continent is been reported by Western media in favour of their businesses and their media empire; thereby creating a misconception about Africa. For instance; the catastrophic “Miss World” aborted pageant that was to be hosted by Nigeria in 2002 but was later shifted to London due to comment made by one of Nigerian local journalist “that Prophet Mohammed could have loved to marry one of the contestants if he was still alive.” This created a moral panic by Western media report and as such infuriated anger among some Islamic fanatics which led to civil unrest. It could be argued that the report was blown out of proportion on the country’s inability and lack of competency to host the event.
The persistent famine in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, and Eritrea as well as some Sub Sahara Africa countries has been an avenue for some Charity Organisations such as Concern, Trócaire, etc in collaboration with mainstream media to flaunt images of poverty striking faces of women and children on front pages of Newspaper and billboards thereby creating the impression of poverty in these countries.
According to Thardo Sompeta a panellist South Africa achiever award; “Western media only come to Africa to do business. Because of the negative coverage about Africa, it discourages investors who wanted to come into the continent and invest. Africa needs to be rebranded.”
The role of Western media such as CNN, the BBC, and France 24 was questioned during the Sierra Leone civil war. It was seen as lip services suitable for Western powers to prove their premeditated choice of non-intervention. Throughout the war, the Western media seems to have much concern on suggestive images of women and children being raped and killed because Africa has been categorized as a continent without hope. Whereas there were some underlying crimes committed by some Western powers that the media kept a blind eye to report; the ‘diamond trade’ the rebels sold to finance the war. The question is; who were the merchants that those precious stones were being sold to. And where were the rebels getting all sophisticated arms and ammunition to resist defeat? All these were behind the camera and lens of the Western media report.
In as much that African has its own good and bad stories just like other continents, however; some countries in Africa are still making progress economically. Countries like Angola, Ethiopia, and Botswana have been on steady growth in the economy. Its GDPs has risen progressively making them be among of the fastest growing economies in the world and this is not making headlines in Western media report instead Zimbabwe, with ailing economy becomes an everyday headline.
The story of HIV/AIDS in Africa especially countries in Sub- Sahara Africa were blown out of proportion by the Western Media. For example for the past 30 years, HIV/AIDS have been a global challenge both in social and economic development of the human race. Record by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health agencies suggest that most of HIV/AIDS carriers are from Africa. According to statistics out of 42 million HIV patients worldwide, 30 million are said to be from Sub Sahara Africa without having a thorough statistics of it. As a result, HIV/AIDS is now seen as an African inheritance.
In 2014 Africa was again on western media spotlight during Ebola outbreak. The mainstream media label almost every West African as Ebola carrier especially those who were from the affected countries that live in Europe and America who travelled to the West Africa. The news of the disease was over exaggerated. Instead of finding the solution to the endemic Africa became the focus of isolation. The fight against Ebola was effective when the disease got into to Europe and America they were able to send their medical personnel to the affected countries.
In 1992 it was reported by New York Times that starvation was taken toll in East African and some Southern African countries due to the severe drought which the New York Times published the story five times in eight days. Three out the five stories mainly focused on elephants and Rhinos and other endangered species thereby leaving millions of people starving without food and water out of the spotlight.
The 1998 attack on America embassy in Kenya and Tanzania were extensively given a wider coverage by the Western media because of the US interest abroad. The Kenyans who died in the attack were not given much publicity unlike the American nationals who were given wider publicity because it involves America. These were documented facts and not baloney.
As Western media continue to dominate the global news arena with new technological advancement Africa is left behind in the new media world. The giant media co-operations like, Fox news and British Sky owned by Australian born media mogul now an American Kieth Rupert Murdoch who owns other media chains such as the “News of the World” and the “Sun” newspaper has the power of monopoly which influences media in their reports.
The Arab Spring which took place a few years back was another example of Western media propaganda. Some countries in Africa like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were the hotspot for Western news media during the revolution. The likes of other online social media such as the facebook, twitter and Google plus have helped the mainstream media to execute their negative news report in Africa.
During the crisis in Egypt when President Mohamed Morsy was overthrown the Western media were showing different armature videos that were not properly verified. Some of these videos and images were taken by some protesters through their smartphones and cameras and were broadcasted on CNN, BBC, Sky news and other mainstream media. It created anger and emotion when viewed by neighbouring countries especially on restive youth who want to cease any slight opportunity to foment trouble and more so perpetuate militancy and terrorism within the region.
As Africa is often depicted as a continent without hope by Western media, this calls for an analytical review, especially during the crisis. The military intervention by US marine in Somalia in 1991-1992 was because of horrible images televised by CNN, FOX news and other mainstream media that showed pictures of starving women and children and some child soldiers. Perhaps the US would have been better off without going to Somalia because of heavy casualties they suffered.
The images of war and economic crisis are being recycled daily by these media outfits which diminish the continent glorious image due to these false narratives. This could be perhaps reasons why some media decided to add new programmes so as change the perception of viewers towards the continent. For instance, media such as the BBC relays programme like “African Dream” an informative programme about successful African businessmen and women. While the CNN runs “African voices”.
Since the establishment of AL- Jazeera TV network in Doha Qatar, it has given the Middle East and the Arab world a voice and helps rewrite the propaganda that is been labelled against the region by the Western media. Africa needs a voice that will rebrand and boast their battered image.
As Africa detests the ugly painting by Western media, the continent has a responsibility to play to enhance coverage. Despite the technological backwardness of the continent, there are needs to establish a good training environment for journalist so as to have seasoned and tested media professionals that can compete with their western counterpart.
The government should create a good policy for free press freedom so as to have an enabling environment for private ownership of media which will help train upcoming journalists and for accurate news dissemination. In as much as there is a regulatory system in place, the government should avoid using it as an avenue to intimidate broadcasting owners and journalists. For instance in Nigeria, severally some private media outfit like African Independent Television (AIT) and Channel Television has been a target of victimisation. Occasionally, these media outfits had been shut down by the government because of some of their programme which speaks against government policies.
It’s time for Africa to rise up and face the challenges of the 21st century. Media is now a powerful weapon which countries use to rewrite its ugly past. The era of neo-colonialism is over where western news dissemination was obtrusive on the continent. More so, the emergence of new technologies in broadcasting has made it easy especially in the new age of internet technology which has spontaneously changed the world to a global village; Africa should not be left behind in the race.