detail - Media Programme Sub-Saharan Africa
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by Jonathan FridmanWhat does credibility mean for journalists? How can trust between the public and the media be restored - after scandals in renowned media houses such as the Spiegel in Germany or the Sunday Times in South Africa? And how can critical journalism work in countries with limited press freedom?
In order to find answers to these questions, the Media Programme Sub-Sahara Africa of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung hosted a conference in Gaborone, Botswana. From 26 to 27 August, more than 20 journalists, media researchers and other industry players discussed the topic of "Regaining Trust - how media in Africa and Europe reclaims credibility".
The participants came from Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zimbabwe, but also from Germany and Switzerland. A total of 11 nationalities were represented at the conference. This broad spectrum of experiences and perspectives made for an intellectually enriching atmosphere.
During the presentations, case studies, such as from Zimbabwe and Germany, alternated with regional overviews. Roukaya Kasenally, Chair of the African Media Initiative, investigated the question of whether the media in Africa really constitute the Fourth Estate, while Markus Spillmann, President of the International Press Institute, outlined the situation in Europe. Eminent media personalities such as Charles Onyango-Obbo from Uganda and Dapo Olorunyomi from Nigeria contributed significantly to the debates. Christoph Plate, Director of the KAS Media Programme Sub-Sahara Africa, commented: "We try to bring important personalities from the media industry together and promote exchange - because there are many similarities between the media in Africa and Europe".
Furthermore, journalists were invited to critically examine their own responsibility, along with the role of journalism prizes in the industry. The latter are sometimes criticized for valuing style over content, or for rewarding young reporters who put themselves in dangerous situations. A special focus was placed on the contact between journalists and their readers in order to create more trust.
Credibility remains the most important currency of journalism. "Saying what is" was the motto of SPIEGEL founder Rudolf Augstein and the magazine put this slogan on its cover after the "Relotius scandal" was uncovered. At our conference in Botswana, decision-makers from Africa and Europe were able to exchange views as to how they can better live up to this principle – and how to convey to readers that their trust in the media is justified.