Afrikadag (02)

De tweede workshop die ik vandaag op de Afrikadag bezocht, ging over de relatie tussen media en politieke invloed van burgers in een samenleving. Deze workshop was georganiseerd door ‘NEO’ (Netwerk Economische Ontwikkelingssamenwerking, binnen de PvdA). Op hun flyer staat: “NEO is een kennisnetwerk van mensen die interesse hebben in ontwikkelingssamenwerking. Hoewel de ontwikkelingssamenwerking van de afgelopen decennia slechts in beperkte mate succesvol was, meent NEO dat veel problemen waar ontwikkelingslanden mee kampen toch opgelost kunnen worden, wanneer ze meer economisch worden benaderd. NEO probeert die meer structurele, economische visie op ontwikkelingssamenwerking uit te werken en op de politieke agenda te plaatsen.

De gespreksleider van dit debat was Martijn van Dam, lid van de Tweede Kamer voor de PvdA. De sprekers waren Paul Maassen (HIVOS), Peter de Klerk (Nederlands ambassadeur mensenrechten), Tom Kamara en Babah Tarawally (Freevoice, media development). Uitgangspunt van het debat luidde: “Media create a world-view. How can media be created?” De rest van het verslag zal in het engels zijn, aangezien het debat dat ook was.

Kamara tried to be a journalist in, but was thrown into jail several times due to not willing to be a propagandist for the government. He wrote about the extremely expensive house of the president. That was enough reason to get arrested.

By being a journalist, Kamara tried to achieve exposure. He ‘just’ wanted to write the tihings he wanted to. Nowadays, in Liberia there is an appreciable degree of press-freedom. So, collectively, he was part of a successful group. The effect on society is that more people accept critically thinking people now. People are no longer afraid of the government and the gvernment knows this, which leads to more transparancy. They have to worry about public opinion. This is democracy: you have to listen to the people.

Babah Tarawally: Liberia has a more open form of media now, indeed. Why not merge several outages of media? Now there is much acceptance of free media by the government, but mainly because it is funded by western money. The balance is lost. The problem is, that many working for the media are very poor. So, the risk exists that journalists are bribed. Donor countries should demand free press from governments, ánd the press should be supported seperately in order to maintain balance.

Paul Maassen thinks it is important to support many expressions of media. HIVOS tries to sustain media in the most suppressing countries and tries to let other projects use existing media.

De Klerk stated that during the last 10 years, policy formulation on human right, development work and free media have merged. Before, these were different areas of policy. Policy is implemented by picking the right partners. Policy nowadays is mainly decentralized, implementation taking place by embassies in specific countries. No information on the receivers of support is given, which to me indicates the severe lack of freedom these beneficiaries have.

Questions from the participants of the debate soon led to the statement that supporting the media always has political intentions. Free media that has been supported by political intentions is contradictory in itself.”Unless the policy-makers have interest in a region, you cannot do much”. Truly free media do therefor not exist / cannot exist. We always select what countries we want to help. In that selection, we select only what is politically acceptable.

Kamara: “we were helped by Freevoice because we started on our own account. Our efforts were merely amplified by Freevoice. It might be that I were helped because we were critical, but I don’t really think that that was the motive for helping us”.

On account of Radio Netherlands, which has an estimated number of listeners of 60 / 60 million, whether the goal is to give listeners a dutch view on things, or to train journalist in several countries (as well). A journalist from Radio Netherlands (for the french parts of south Africa) stated: it is not only journalism, but showing dutch views as well. This is justifiable in bringing a more broad spectrum of messages.

Martijn van Dam: This is why you don’t just need media, but media diversity as well.

Babah Tarawally: In Zimbabwe there are no no journalists, only activists. They cannot show both sides of a story, for the government controls so much of the information flow in that country. So yes, we (Freevoice) are political!

De Klerk: It is important to have the right understanding on the word political. Our policy is political in the sense that we act from the perspective of certain values. This should be discerned from being political in the sense of having an agenda to, for instance, overthrow a government.

Al met al vond ik dit een geslaagd debat. Hoewel er naar mijn mening behoorlijk politiek correct gedaan werd of politiek handelen, vond ik het boeiend dat dit element besproken werd. Natuurlijk had er ook gesproken kunnen worden over het ‘kip en het ei’ van media en vrijheid/invloed, maar ik ben blij dat het nu eens anders was. Naar mijn mening moeten we ontsnappen aan die politieke correctheid, door juist ronduit te erkennen dat we altijd vanuit een zekere ‘agenda’ (of uitgangspunten, wat volgens mij vrijwel hetzelfde is) handelen. Zouden we daar allemaal eerlijker over zijn, dan kunne we het tenminste ergens over hebben. Dan zouden we over die uitgangspunten een goede discussie kunnen voeren. Nu blijft het allemaal een beetje hangen in het schemergebied.

From the invitation:

Babah Tarawally, born in Sierra Leone, is regional employee Africa for Free Voice. Free Voice has a variety of programs throughout the African continent. Within that framework Free Voice researches the feasibility of a Media Foundation for West-Africa. In Zambia, Free Voice supports the Zambian Community Media Forum which focuses on educating trainers for journalists of community radios. Community media is growing rapidly throughout Zambia and they appear to have the most impact on the great variety of communities. It is often the case that national media does not reach small villages.

Tom Kamara
(1949) grew up in Sodu, a little village bordering Sierra Leone and Guinea. Through an exchange programme, Kamara won a scholarship to study in the United States. He was admitted at the University of Texas in Arlington (de UTA) where he chose to study Journalism. When the civil war in Sierra Leone reached its peak, Kamara introduced The New Democrat Weekly. The New Democrat Weekly intended to inform people about the political situation in a critical but reliable and honest manner. President Taylor did not appreciate the existence of this independent newspaper and eventually threatened to invade its office. Arrests and intimidation eventually forced the staff to flee to Ghana. With support of Dutch NGO’s like FreeVoice, Kamara successfully continues the New Democrat Weekly.

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