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African journalists must be independent to deliver on watchdog and accountability roles – Dogbevi

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Emmanuel K Dogbevi

African journalists can only assert their independence to perform their watchdog and accountability roles with sufficient funding from within the continent. But there is currently no source of funding from within the continent that supports journalism in Africa, leaving journalists to seek funding for their work from outside sources.

Africa therefore needs more independent journalism development organizations to support its journalists to produce quality work, says the Managing Editor of Ghana Business News, Emmanuel K. Dogbevi.

He notes that many of the continent’s talented journalists are unable to produce critical stories or be independent in their work because of the funding support they receive from some organizations including those based outside the continent.

Mr. Dogbevi who is also the Executive Director of NewsBridge Africa said while journalism in Africa has largely been mirrored on western practice and continues to thrive on western influences in various forms including trainings and fellowship programmes, the independence of the continent’s journalists is key to delivering on the media’s accountability and watchdog role in Africa.

The media in Africa largely depends on advertising especially from multinationals to be sustainable hence making it susceptible to external influences in its editorial decisions. The consequence of this includes becoming a conveyor belt for misinformation which endangers society.

To address this challenge, there is the need to increase funding for independent journalism, Dogbevi says.

Delivering a keynote address at a 3-day workshop on open source investigation for fighting mis/disinformation in West Africa in Dakar, Senegal, Dogbevi argued that having more independent journalism development organizations and adequate funding from them will enable the media to produce stories without self-censoring or being influenced by funders and advertisers.

He also said improving the quality of training of journalists on the continent is necessary for independent reporting.

“To curb misinformation in Africa, it’s important to consider the curriculum for training journalists on the continent. There is the need to ramp up funding for independent journalism, which is currently non-existent. Almost all the funding for independent, critical reporting in Africa comes from abroad,” he said.

The workshop in Dakar which brought together journalists from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Kenya was aimed at equipping journalists with relevant skills for tracking coordinated disinformation campaigns using digital tools and amplifying the culture of truth in their respective newsrooms. The event was put together by the Code For Africa and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

“The nature and concepts of journalism in Africa are largely mirrored on Western notions and models of news gathering, production and dissemination. The technology and techniques are all sort of borrowed, considering the fact that modern journalism or mass media originated in the West… foreign influence in African media has been the very foundation of media in Africa,” Dogbevi noted.

He added that, “African countries haven’t as yet developed Afrocentric philosophy of education devoid of Western influence in training media practitioners – leaving foreign influence in the trail.”

He further said journalists on the continent are able and willing to deliver on their mandate but are constrained by the poor working conditions they are provided with, which makes them vulnerable to foreign influences.

“The working conditions of journalists on the continent ought to be improved, as well as security and sustainability – these conditions have the potential to curb foreign influences in the media in Africa.

Fact is, the continent has talented and dedicated journalists, willing and eager to do their job, if the conditions are created for them to pursue what I would call Afrocentric journalism,” he said.

By Jonas Nyabor, in Dakar, Senegal

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All rights reserved. This article or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in reviews.

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