Mass Media Development and Government Relations
The intolerance of alternative viewpoints on the part of many educated African leaders is the root of the continent's problems.
-- George B. N. Ayittey in Africa Betrayed ( 1992)
Constitutional protections for media staffers in Africa are taken for granted. While the region's various constitutions guarantee journalists' freedoms, the realities are far different: journalists may well assume that no such guarantees are indeed available. Even international conventions regarding the mass media are not practical realities for African governments.
The nonbinding Article 19 of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its restatement in Article 19 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights enunciate everyone's right "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas." While a number of African governments acknowledge publicly the merits of such prescriptions, they have demonstrated more than a passing interest in their countries' mass media. Even though their constitutions prima facie protect the expression of ideas, such expressions have little fervor in the harsh realities of media-government relations, as indicated in Merrill's ( 1988) finding that African countries have an inclination toward press control.
Africa's media are used to legitimize government policies and actions. Ruijter ( 1989) characterizes government-media relations in Africa as: (1) manipulative, in that official communiques from government sources constitute the bulk of news on the continent; (2) collaborative, resulting in an interdependency between the state and the media; (3) supportive of the legal and moral underpinnings of the state; and (4) preventive, in that the media face stumbling blocks
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Publication information: Book title: International Afro Mass Media:A Reference Guide. Contributors: James Phillip Jeter - Author, Kuldip R. Rampal - Author, Vibert C. Cambridge - Author, Cornelius B. Pratt - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 27.
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