African media needs Internet freedom, new technology

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Media freedom and technology transfer remain two areas that African media practitioners needed to focus on, concluded delegates of the Highway Africa journalism conference in Grahamstown.

Leon Willems, director of the global Free Press Unlimited group attending the conference, said at the closing session that “we need the Internet to be free and open”.

“We need it to be outside government control,” he said.

Raymond Louw, deputy chairperson the South African National Editors Forum’s media freedom committee, said that Highway Africa should also partner with the Pan African Parliament to fight against repressive media and Internet legislation in Africa.

“The parliament’s human rights committee has been meeting to work against these laws. I suggest that Highway Africa and the Rhodes University journalism department gets involved with the Pan African Parliament and participate in the campaign,” said Louw.

Delegates raised concerns that Africa could become the dumping ground for outdated digital tools from countries that are adopting newer technologies. The media’s digital switch-over meant that technologies were needed on the continent. But this should be done according to international standards of advancement as opposed to simply accepting outdated handouts, said one delegate.

Willems also urged conference organisers to enlist more African media professionals to talk about their work at the event. He said that the gathering meanwhile enabled meetings between the “media development world and colleagues from Africa… to create future work and partnerships”.

Other delegates urged Highway Africa organisers to also consider a gender agenda as part of its future programme. This was important particularly in relation to technology as men and women in Africa did not have equal access to media tools, said one delegate.

An increase of African perspectives and revealing how much worldwide media funding was spent on the continent were other matters that the conference needed to address in future, said delegates.

Enabling remote access to conference events should also be considered alongside making conference information available on the Internet or in print form so that others could “learn from this and move on with other debates”.

The sixteenth edition of the annual gathering of media industry professionals was hosted by Rhodes University in Grahamstown from Sunday to Tuesday. Among the issues discussed on the last day were the vital role of media coverage in conflict zones and corruption in the media workplace.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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