About development journalism

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The 1960s brought bright future, great hope and expectation in Africa. It was a time that many African countries gained their independency from colonial powers. It was a period that the dark ages of colonialism totally collapsed and, a new age of glorious economic growth and intellectual emancipation was started (Odhiambo, 1991).

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Odhiambo further argued that the newly emerging countries of Arica were set target to regain the lost glory due to colonial powers and enter a new age of restoration and cultural renaissance. The continent’s intellectual and political leadership was directed towards rapid socioeconomic development. “Thus socioeconomic development became the historically organic ideology, or the organizing principle, for social policy and program mes. Development was historically given the prevailing structures of postcolonial backwardness and poverty” (Odhiambo, 1991, P. 20).

Mass media was considered as a major role player in disseminating government policies in order to bring significant socio-economic development by creating awareness and mobilizing citizens towards the implementation of these policies of the newly-independent countries in Africa.

Thus, the concept of development journalism in Africa continent was related to emergency of newly born, independent African states, and these states considered mass media as an integral part of their development concerns. According to Banda (2007), the emergency of development journalism in African context is traced back to the evolution of development communication theories namely, modernization”, dependency and multiplicity paradigms (See section 2.3.1).

Following the strong criticism against modernization paradigm which saw western model of development as an extremely important and the only path for development in the Third World nations (Melkote 1991), dependency paradigm emerged with the view that the self-determination and an ideological distancing of the newly independent nations of the Third World from Western forms of modernization (Servaes 2002). Inspired with the view of political, economic and cultural self-determination from the western influences, new states of Africa and Asia formed Non-Aligned Nations and this in turn paved ways for the debate on a new world information and communication order (NWICO) (Servaes 2004). The debate further stated the role that African media should have in the world information flow system. “African media systems in the flow of information between and among nations assumed a crescendo in the promulgation of a New Information and Communication Order (NWICO) by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)”( Banda, 2007,P.3).

The way that the west press and news agencies cover the events of Africa created discomfort among African nations and in consequence Pan-African News Agency (PANA) was established in 1979 by the organization of the African Union, in order to balance unfair and one directional news treatment of western press and news agencies regarding African issues (Odhiambo, 1991; Banda, 2007; Ismail, 2016). As Bourgault 1994 (in Banda, 2007) pointed out that, the main objective of PANA was correcting already distorted images of the African continent by the western media agencies and hence, making African voices heard in the international news scene.

During dependency paradigm time, Africans had tried to establish their own media theory called revolutionary theory’ of the press, adopted by Nkrumah of Ghana, Nyerere of Tanzania and Kaunda of Zambia. Specifically “Nkrumah articulated this theory in 1963 during the Second Conference of African Journalists” (Banda, 2007, P.22).

The primary purpose of the African revolutionary theory of the press according to Nkrumah was supporting African revolutionary struggle for establishing free political and economic system in the continent. The theory supports state control of the media which is different from colonial period media ownership style (Ibid). Thus, the revolutionary journalism was an earlier version of development journalism.

Through this process and with the aim of making media to become a tool for exhorting positive social change by encouraging and promoting development initiatives sponsored by local and foreign governments and international organizations, the concept of development journalism flourished in African continent starting from 1970s. Thus, according Xiaoge, (2009b in Solomon 2014, P. 12) “the success of the UNESCO-sponsored projects such as Radio Rural Forums in India, Ghana and Costa Rica accelerated the growth and popularity of development journalism.” Similarly, as Skjerdal (2011), pointed out that various African leaders adopted the concept of development journalism by making it fit to their government systems like military, one-party democracy style, autocratic, and multiparty systems.

In fact, the practice of media in general and development journalism in particular remain ‘loyal to the government journalism’ or ‘government say-so journalism in many African countries (Solomon, 2014). Damatob & Hall, 1983; Odhiambo, 1991 (in Solomon, 2014, P. 13) further argued that “Perhaps due to this resemblance between these African journalism philosophies and development journalism, development journalism was hijacked by African leaders who used it to advance their own (mostly dictatorial).” Though, most of the African media are alleged as being mouthpieces of government, it has been playing pivotal role in uniting the people and promoting development based on development journalism practice. Therefore, the concept of development journalism in African context is not new and hence, referred back to the time that African countries took over the power from the colonials with the beginning of a new age of economic growth.

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