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Do African media influence state policies?

30.07.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
When all mass communication platforms are collectively put together, they are called media; TV/Radio broadcast, Newspapers, Letters, Articles, Internet/Websites/Social Media, Telecommunication and many more. In Africa, both the private and state sectors make use of the media in different ways that fit their purpose.
Newspapers, Letters and Articles are the oldest Media platforms that are still used in Africa while Radio and Television only came into Africa between the post independent era till the 80s. Today, the internet/Social Media which came to Africa within the last 20 years has taken over media and has proven to be the most effective.

African State media have been known to be used in favour of State affairs while private media are known to face some freedom of expression challenges. This is because African leaders have shown a dictatorship ruling method by which they control all State institutions and influence all State policies. Some of these rules limit and condition the media from neither publishing nor broadcasting information contrary to the so called State numbs which is causing a lot of difficulties for media.

However, media especially the private have still been able to influence some State affairs in many ways;

  • News Broadcasts : This is one of the most followed up media routines mostly carried by TV/Radio and Newspaper houses, through which they make known to the public the most recent and coherent happenings in a community, city/town, country or continent. It is obvious that news in Africa is drifted more towards the negative happenings thus making many African States to show discord for Media houses especially the private that broadcast negative aspects of news.  As a result, African States often changes policies to either solve some of the issues exposed by media houses. Some African States have gone to the extent of forcing media platforms to sign undertakings and agreements to work according to State dictates by which venture their freedom of expression is limited.
  • Interviews : Media sometime indulge people from all sectors of life to participate in interviews on randomly selected topics or to give their own statements on current issues or to comment on recent happenings; during which some Government failures are highlighted. It is obvious that in the process, State stakeholders and the public are informed of causes and consequences of many problems. The State in most cases either reacts to solve these problems or changes policies to avoid them in future.
  • Speeches : Many speeches and public statements have been published on media which led to imaginable changes and influenced policies in Africa. The late Nelson Mandela used the radio to preach against the apartheid, promote peace and equality; he also wrote articles for many newspaper agencies and it brought about the change of policy and rule in South Africa.

  • Public Service Announcements/Adverts : When African States have important announcements, adverts, warnings, alerts or advice to give their populations, they first target TV and Radio. This is often seen in cases of epidemics; sharing of mosquito nets and the fight against, how to fight against the EBOLA virus, celebration of national/international social days and public holidays. It is evident that African State governments will definitely use the media to ensure a proper change of policy and implementation in such cases.
  • Presidential and Diplomatic Debates : Due to the awareness of the wide coverage and certainty of transmission of information, many States have made it a policy to hold presidential and other debates on a fixed date during election campaigns to make it easy for their citizens to get a coherence of all those involved. This is a big influence on African States’ policies.
  • Press Conferences : Press conferences are a granted to the media so that answers can be given to some questions directly from their sources. This process has shown to be very beneficial in the sense that the reporters who ask questions definitely hit problematic issues will go a long way to influence to those who take decisions in African countries.
  • Coup D’état Announcements : There have been a series of attempted and successful Coup D’états in African, the most recent being that of January 7th, 2019 staged by some Members of the Armed Forces of Gabon which failed. One of the major strategies of a successful Coup D’état is the use of the media to announce it. This shows how powerful and instrumental this can be to political change.

SET BACKS

The media in Africa is facing a lot of setbacks especially in countries where the presidents have been in power for too long. Every now and then, temporal to permanent bands have been placed on TV/RADIO and even Newspaper houses like the cast of Equinoxe TV and LTM TV in Cameroon that have received bands on some programs and complete suspensions and some journalists arrested and detained for broadcasting the sociopolitical crisis.

Media houses in Africa are forced by the government to sign undertakings which limit their content and are also refused access to interviews, court sessions and other events.

The media is very instrumental in many State/private affairs in many more ways and that is why they are involved in public events, meetings, briefings, diplomatic visits, sociocultural activities and other major celebrations. It is clear that they can influence State policies because of the resistance they are given by the governments and if given the chance to freely operate and express themselves, they will help the government solve her country’s problems easily.

Article from AFRIC editorial

Photo credit: google images/ illustration

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