"A milestone and a highlight"
Highway Africa and PACAI: The media siblings from Cape Town
Also available in Deutsch
Highway Africa and the Pan African Conference on Access to Information (PACAI), affiliated conferences supported by KAS Media Africa, made Cape Town the media capital of southern Africa in September 2011. As one of 250 journalists in the midst of it: reporter Simeon Maganga from Malawi. His personal conclusion is clear: “I gained a lot of interesting ideas that I can use for my future work.” He met with media makers and experts from the region to discuss decisive issues for the future of the media industry.
Even 20 years after the Declaration of Windhoek, which demanded the creation of a free, pluralistic and independent press as a core element of democracy, the basic framework for journalists in many African countries is still challenging. The PACAI reflected the Declaration and the pursuit of free access to information while the presentations at Highway Africa, the continent’s largest journalism conference, followed the guiding theme, African Media and Sustainability. Renowned experts like Janis Karklins (Assistant Director-General for the Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO), Paula Fray (IPS Africa) and Izak Minnar (SABC) held talks and led workshops at the double conference. KAS Media Africa supported the sister conferences with three well-coordinated measures aligned with the goals of the media programme: the production of a video live-stream to improve regional exchange and demonstrate the potential of digitalization; the invitation of the media ethics authority, William Bird, to talk about the regulatory function of the media; and finally the invitation of two journalists from the region to promote investigative journalism
The production of a video live-stream allowed journalists to attend the conference even if they were not physically present. As a consequence, more journalists in the region could follow the presentations in Cape Town. Through this measure KAS Media Africa emphasized regional exchange, one of the focal points of the media programme. A further key aspect of the programme, digitalization, was also highlighted by the production of the video-stream. The Stream impressively showed the potential that lies in digitalization. The delivery of video as well as audio formats contributed to the success of the conference, assessed Guy Berger from Rhodes University in Grahamstown. “The conference was a milestone and a highlight of the current campaign for more access to information in Africa,” said the organizer of PACAI.
Furthermore, William Bird, director of Media Monitoring Africa, was invited by KAS Media Africa to the double conference. He led a lively session on the topic of self-regulating mechanisms. The debate revolved around the question of how print media could and should be regulated. The participants of this round came from Great Britain, the USA, Ghana and South Africa. The bottom line after more than 90 minutes of intense discussion in the crowded Auditorium 2 at the Convention Centre in Cape Town was clear: the right measures for regulating the press have to be carefully considered and analysed in the context of the specific country’s background. Bird gave further input at another session from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASS), which deals with the question of media monitoring in the digital age. “This session was important, as it addresses the core question about the future of the independent regulatory authorities,” commented Bird, who is very grateful to the media programme for making his attendance at the conference possible.
KAS Media Africa’s third contribution to the conference was the invitation of two reporters from the partner organization, Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). In addition to the above-mentioned Simeon Maganga, Borges Nhamirre from Mozambique was also able to make the trip to South Africa with the help of the Media Programme. According to Abdullah Vawda, the managing director of FAIR, the topic of Highway Africa, African Media and the Global Sustainability Challenge, is currently very important for FAIR and the participating members in order to push ahead with the demand for high quality investigative journalism in Africa,. Both reporters will return to their countries with many new impressions and ideas that they can utilize and share.
Consequently, Markus Brauckmann, director of KAS Media Africa, views the conference as a success: “The discussions took place at a very high level.” Journalists and experts meeting to discuss diverse topics is the very essence of such a conference. New networks arise and innovative ideas are spread across the region. In addition, the opportunity to discuss problems and achievements with other reporters is very important:”A journalist from an African country with limited freedom of press can learn that colleagues in other countries face similar problems. Possible solutions to such issues can be gained through the ensuing exchange of ideas,” says Brauckmann, the former TV journalist. KAS Media Africa will continue to support these projects in the coming year.
Republic of South Africa, October 24, 2011