This is the topic for today’s web chat organized by the VOA (Voice Of America) in Washignton DC at 01.00pm GMT (04.00pm Madagascar time).
This discussion will be live broadcasted on VOA TV, VOA Radio, and on internet. The guest will be Ferdinand Ferella, the managing director of the French to Africa service at the VOA. Ferdinand Ferella, through his tremendous experience of covering the news and events throughout Africa, especially in French speaking African countries, is among the journalists who know very much (in details?) the real situation of press freedom in Africa.
The situation of African journalists is quite difficult because they have to face a lot of “direct and indirect obstacles” when doing their jobs. “JOB, this the term which is among the sources of journalists’ problems”, African journalists do their jobs because they are paid to do so and not because it is their passion. In most of Francophone African countries, journalists become the ”agents” or the ”spokepeople” of political movements or parties. Nevertheless, let us not also forget that in some “western” countries, press companies ”work” for very influent economic entities.
The Francophone African journalists are aware of their weaknesses and are willing to strengthen their status and their independance, but the reality on the ”battlefield” is really something else and is always able to ”redirect” them in a ”wiser” way.
Felaka is the ironical term to name corruption of journalists in Madagascar. Felaka means ”slap”. This has always been deemed as a ”normal” practice in the world of journalism in Madagascar. If you want something to be published or to be reported, you have to give money carefully hidden in a little white envelope to the targeted journalists. According to Malagasy journalists, this is not corruption, this is just a donation … I believe that such practice is also widely expanded in most of French speaking African countries. The funny thing is that there are even Malagasy communication agencies which straightly advise their clients to give ”felaka” to journalists. This practice is so expanded in Madagascar that I’m just afraid that the Malagasy state would legalize it (through the new code of communication that the ministry of communication and the journalists’ union are now preparing).
Source of information
Information sourcing is vital for the work of journalists. In Madagascar, most of journalists just wait for the said information to fall into their hands. Press conference and Press release are considered as the only trustworthy sources of information. The concept of journalism of investigation is not well popularized yet in Madagascar. As a friend journalist told to me one day: “it takes time and it costs money … Investigation is not part of my job description, I’m not a cop …” Most of Malagasy journalists do not make efforts to overlap the information they got, and when they do it, they do it between journalists when they meet.
Malagasy journalists also … shhhhhhhhh … okay, let’s stop criticizing our good friends from ”traditional” media and let’s listen to Ferdinand Ferella this afternoon at 01.00pm GMT instead, I guess he has a lot of interesting things to share.
If you have a good internet connection and if you are eager to listen to what he will say, just log on http://statedept.connectsolutions.com/africamedia/