Last week we (CNN) ran a story about a successful newspaper in Mozambique that is given out for free. It is an inspiring business model – not just for the good journalism – but also because there is a huge element of social uplifting behind the paper’s motivation.
The publisher Erik Charas proudly told us that in the districts and regions where Verdade is distributed, there was a proven link between reading the newspaper and increased political involvement. For example, the newspaper empowers people to ask more from their local governments, to demand more as citizens.
Importantly, more people also turned out to vote, and significantly more women voted in areas where Verdade was distributed. For Charas, this is an important aspect of his publishing model.
In other parts of Southern Africa, newspapers are printed for a host of other reasons.
For example, Zimbabwe’s newspapers have, in recent years, been heavily controlled by the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANUPF), but the media space has opened with the launch of Newsday this year.
Kenya has a vibrant newspaper industry that often challenges the government and has a history of exposing corruption. South Africa also has a strong investigative culture in its newspaper industry, which has recently been threatened by the ruling ANC, which has become hostile to the continuing exposé of corrupt politicians or the politically connected.
At the moment there is a slight cooling of the war between politicians and the media, with the government pressurizing the media to ‘self regulate’ better. Either way, the media landscape in South Africa is fraught with tensions that point to difficulties in the country’s young democracy.
So my question is … has the media in Africa opened up in recent years? Do you think it is more free? Or is there still a culture of fear in reporting the truth or uncovering dirty deals in governments?
Image via: Video Journalism Training