180 delegates from 36 countries, comprising the most senior African editors, editorial executives and media trainers will gather in Bamako, Mali today, for the opening of the fourth conference of The African Editors’ Forum (TAEF).
Under the theme of Media and the Challenge of Peace in Africa, the conference is being held in conjunction with the African Union’s Peace and Security Commission and will interrogate the impact of war on journalists as well as the coverage of peace-making and peace-keeping efforts. The AU has declared 2010 the Year of Peace.
Sponsored by MTN, the conference will also look at how the standard of journalism and the quality thereof become scapegoats for those bent on muzzling journalists. A panel including development activists, media freedom activists, ombudspersons and editors will discuss this subject.
“The intention is to broaden the debate around the standard and quality of journalism from the narrow confines of getting the facts right to also include whether media in Africa has the capacity to do holistic coverage of the intricacies of African life: from the development initiatives that are seeing economies grow, to its politics, cultures and the wars that ravage its soul,” outgoing TAEF Chairperson Mathatha Tsedu said.
One of the highlights of the conference will be the honouring of African political leaders who are seen to have created media-friendly environments during their terms of office. These include former Presidents Nelson Mandela, John Kufuor of Ghana and Alpha Konare of Mali; past Chairperson of the AU Commission, Thabo Mbeki; and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who in her short term has already passed the Freedom of Information Act. All five have been declared “Friends of the Media in Africa”.
President Johnson Sirleaf is sending her Deputy President and a minister to receive her award, while Mandela’s award will be collected by Professor Njabulo Ndebele, a member of the Foundation. Mrs Zanele Mbeki, who is involved with Women Development, will represent her husband and also participate in a panel on the standards of journalism. At the same ceremony four editors – three of whom were killed by suspected government agents in different countries, one missing for over five years after being abducted by security agents in The Gambia, and another who suffered detentions and torture in the hands of police before dying in a car accident – will also be honoured and remembered. At the conference, Highway Africa will launch its new programme, the Reporting Development Network Africa (RDNA).
RDNA seeks to improve the quality of reporting on developmental issues via training and discussion fora. The conference will end with a visit to the Timbuktu world heritage site where manuscripts predating colonialism are being restored and kept in the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research.
By Eric Sande – News From Africa
Image via TAEF