Africa has many problems, no sensible person would argue that fact, but by reporting only on the negatives, Western news organisations are helping perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices which are a major part of Africa's problems. No reporting at all is better than the constant negativity which Africa in general and Nigeria in particular gets from the major news organisations.
The fact that the Niger Delta issue must be reported is not one that I am disputing, the lack of objectivity is what one questions. I have seen several reports that aim at showing that the Iraqis are just like “the rest of us”, in spite of the inhuman, atrocious activities of the insurgents there. It would seem that there is nobody in Sub-Saharan Africa, or Nigeria at least who is living normally “just like the rest of us”. Things are moving on in Africa, markets are emerging and growing. There are millions in Africa who do not depend on aid, who are studying and working, who are doing a honest day’s job and are being innovative, and living decent honest lives whose stories have never and will never be told if it is left to Western news outfits. Only 419 stories and atrocities make it to the screens. No wonder millions in Africa are tuning to the Al-jazeera English service to get their news.
Reports like this photo essay on Time magazine website, are just absolutely imbalanced. While there are millions of people in Africa who live in such conditions as the refugee family pictures in this essay, can someone please tell me how that refugee family fits into the set of pictures which were shown? If they had been comparing the victims of Katrina, families from the slums of Calcutta, the Voksal kids of Russia and Indonesia’s Tsunami victims etc etc, I would not bat an eyelid, but to compare a refugee family to the other non-refugees is just plain stupid. Or are there no families in Africa that are not displaced and who are living normal (even if sometimes poor) lives? I am sure in the prejudiced mind of the Time reporter, every African lives in a camp. The other week, they had another photo shoot titled “The two sides of Nigeria” and the only people who live well that they could come up with were some Lebanese. So there are no Nigerian’s who live well or what? When I saw that photo gallery, I was irritated, but I let it go, but now, I just have to speak out.
Watching CNN’s “Inside the Middle East “ and comparing it to the same Channel’s “Inside Africa” is like comparing chalk and cheese. Not that I watch these programs regularly, but the only normal stories I've seen in a long time on Inside Africa was one about fish farming in Nigeria, and the report about Oprah’s girl’s academy. Unlike Inside the Middle East, where you get a balanced view of what is happening in the Middle East and Northern Africa (Egypt is constantly featured on IME), Inside Africa only ever portrays Aid workers or refugee camps etc, or children singing for visiting westerner celebrities. I think they need to take the program off the air, because they air enough of those on regular news shows anyway. Who needs another 45 mins dedicated to how wretched Africa is when that is all we ever hear day in day out.
You can read Chxta’s post about CNN here.
In my personal opinion, the BBC currently offers the most balanced reports on Africa at the moment.
I issue a challenge to Nigerians out there to come up with a channel and/or News Magazine that portrays our nation in a balanced way and reports our news objectively, at a high quality. There are enough good journalists out there who can satisfy the yearnings for our balanced and unprejudiced reports. They can make their money by satisfying our need for information – it would be a sort of Social Enterprise. It seems CNBC is about to pave the way by launching Sub-Saharan Africa's first international business news news channel.
To the Western news organizations that insist on reporting from Africa, let me borrow from Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and say: How to help Africa? Be objective in your reporting. Here is positive news about the strengthening of the Naira, to cheer you up a bit.
Have a happy weekend!