Africa: Citizen Journalism, Journalism for Citizens

Last week, 700 journalists, bloggers, researchers, students and policymakers from more than 40 African countries took part in three days of discussions, debates and training at the 12th edition of Highway Africa conference in Grahamstown, South Africa. Highway Africa is the largest annual gathering of journalists and other media practitioners on the continent. This year's themes was Citizen Journalism, Journalism for Citizens.

The conference is organised by the School of Journalism at Rhodes University with the the support of Absa, Telkom, the Media Development and Diversity Agency, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the Department of Communications and MTN. New and well-known bloggers attended the conference. Below are some of the posts written by the participants:

SNP English River discusses the theme of the conference in the context of media environment in Seychelles:

This year’s theme had ample importance for Seychelles: citizen journalism, journalism for citizen.
To what extent is journalism in our country serving the Seychellois public? Is every local journalist conscious of the classical liberal role we have to inform, educate and speak truth to the powers in our society?

As we celebrate the year of our constitution, the theme has helped me to reflect more deeply about citizenship and belonging. Being a journalist for well over 15 years, I’m well aware how the media can be a vital force in the democratisation of Seychelles. We tend to think that the government has monopoly of common sense in this country.

Dan Gilmor was keynote speaker at Highway Africa. He writes on his blog about the conference:

I’m at Highway Africa, an annual journalism conference that brings together some of the continent’s most Internet-savvy folks to discuss ways to boost African journalism. It’s my third visit to the gathering, held in Grahamstown, South Africa, and sponsored by the journalism school at Rhodes University and SABC, the country’s biggest broadcaster.
The theme this year is citizen journalism, which has taken root more slowly in Africa than in some other places — in part due to the slower pace of Internet adoption — but which is now generating significant interest from constituencies of all kinds. Those include the traditional media, of course, representatives of which have pointedly asked about issues of trust and credibility; some have hinted broadly, in a place where government intervention in media has been endemic, that regulation may be needed. To the latter I respectfully disagree, naturally.

Nick Haralambous gave a presentation on Digital Media Business. He posted the presentation on his blog:

This is the presentation I just gave at Highway Africa 2008.

Sim writes some basic facts about Highway Africa:

Highway Africa means a big deal to me; as it does to others around the continent involved in education, research and the practice of journalism.
Let’s get some of the facts out of the way:
• This year’s conference runs between September 8 and 12 (inclusive).
• This is the 12th time HA has been held
• Every HA Conference has been held in September
• The 2010 HA Conference will be held anywhere between June 10 and July 12, 2010, to benefit from the World Cup Soccer tournament.
• Highway Africa is the largest collection of African journalists in the world! This year, an estimated 800 people have are attending, a big jump from the 65 who attended the very first conference in 1996.

Enoch Darfah-Frimpong attended the opening ceremony:

Opening the conference, the South African Deputy Minister of Communications, Mr Radhakrishna Padayachie, said the media had a responsibility to help Africa keep up with the current surge of digital advancement.

He said while the government was responsible for helping the ordinary citizens gain access to digital media by creating the right policy frameworks, regulations and legal functions, the media must educate the masses about ICTs.

Mr Padayachie said the biggest restriction to the digital revolution in Africa was poor infrastructure and cited the prohibitive cost of importing broadband to most African countries as an example.

In relation to mobile phones, he said a recent report from Nokia showed that while South Africa for instance boasted the highest concentrations of mobile technology available in the world, the cost of handsets was high and the sophisticated generation and development of software was still unavoidable in the country.

The Deputy Minister of Communications therefore challenged African governments to engage the private sector, civil society and media workers to actively involve the local people in the development of ICTs and the digital revolution.

He held the view that technology had transformed the traditional media landscape, as well as newsrooms.

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore posts a link to a Mail & Guardian story about South Africa's cult status vlogger, Khaya Dlanga. Khaya was named the winner of the Innovative use of the Internet award.

Khaya Dlanga, one of Thought Leader's most popular bloggers and a cult-status “vlogger” on YouTube, has been named winner of the Innovative use of the Internet award at the 12th annual Highway Africa conference in Grahamstown.

The 30-year old copywriter is a global phenomenon on YouTube, where his 117 videos ranging from “crazy to stupid” (in his words) have attracted more than three million hits.
Other Dlanga videos attracting huge hits on YouTube include “I quit smoking pot and cigarettes when I was 10 years old” and “I'm going to commit suicide”.

Blogging at Highway Africa 2008, Aasra Bramdeo asks, “Can anyone be a journalist?”:

Trying to get a perspective from delegates at highwayAFRICA, the media rendezvous in Grahamstown which ended on September 10th, is no easy feat. With the theme of this year’s conference being: Citizen Journalism,  Journalism for citizens. Journalists and academics all have an opinion on the phenomenon that is changing the face of the international media landscape.
The argument is essentially this: if journalists practice their profession according to a certain code of conduct, and if they are given certain legal protections, would the same codes and protections apply to citizen journalists.
Cisse Hamaye, the editor of the African Editors Forum (TAEF) in Mali says: “A journalist is a professional who should give factual, verified information therefore there must be protection. There is greater responsibility for a journalist.” But that isn’t always the case in Africa…

South Africa's Deputy Minister of Communications, Radhakrishna Roy Padayachie, attended the conference and talked about the importance of journalists to Africa's digital revolution:

Speaking at the three-day 12th Highway Africa Conference, which started on Monday at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Padayachie said: “Media workers had an excellent opportunity to mobilise, educate and bring mass of awareness of Digital Migration to ordinary people.”

South Africa has already begun implementing the changeover phase from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting.

This was one of the FIFA requirements South Africa agreed to when bidding to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, apart from other technology infrastructure.

Department of Education Director General, Lyndall Shope-Mafole said part of the success of hosting the world cup, would some as a result of the technology infrastructure that the continent was currently putting in place.

In addition to debates and discussions about media and technology, participants were entertained by a live Congolese music from the band, Afro Fiesta:

Participants at the 12th Highway Africa conference in South Africa were mesmerized as Afro Fiesta musical group from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) took the stage at the Associated Bank of South Africa (ABSA) dinner night on Monday.Led by Mermans Mosengo Kenkosenki, the group played out their songs which portrayed the beauty of the African continent. Kenkosenki said he was happy to be part of the Highway Africa conference – an annual gathering of journalists, media and information experts from Africa. “I would like to thank ABSA bank for sponsoring us to come to South Africa and perform at this Africa night,” he said.The group played music of Africa touch from rhumba to kwasakwasa before they bowed out. Some of the delegates at this year’s conference have come from countries like Kenya, Namibia, Malawi, Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal, DRC, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Zambia.ABSA bank Chief Executive, Happy Nchingira said the bank was excited to be a friend of Highway Africa and an enabler of the growth and development of the Africa media.

There are videos of the conference on Zoopy, Africa's leading video-sharing site.

1 comment

  • the conference was a great experience, but the issue for me is that the theme was not met at all. journalism for citizens, the conference was basically for delicates and no ordinary citizen at all.

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