Washington, D.C., October 15, 2008 - Africans across the continent have access to more information because of technology like the Internet and cell phones despite press freedom restrictions in many countries, panelists said today at the Voice of America (VOA).
Reed Kramer, CEO of AllAfrica Global Media, which runs www.allafrica.com, said the media in Africa is becoming increasingly professional, but challenges remain, including financial pressures and government crackdowns.
Kramer, Eric Chinje, manager of Africa's external affairs for the World Bank, and Mwamoyo Hamza, chief of VOA's Swahili service, participated in a discussion, "Africa's Dynamic Media Environment."
Although some African leaders still try to censor news, "the media environment is very bright," Hamza said. He cited the proliferation of media in places such as Kinshasa, where there are at least 70 FM radio stations and up to 200 newspapers.
In 2007 Freedom House, the non-profit group that rates media freedoms, categorized eight countries in Africa as having a free press, 19 countries as partially free, and 21 countries as not free.
Chinje said several countries with the greatest freedoms, including freedom of the press, are developing at a fast clip. He cited Ghana and Botswana as two countries that are performing well economically.
To spur professional development in the media, the panelists all touted the value of training, particularly training on a regional basis.
The panelists agreed that the 2008 presidential election in the United States has generated huge interest among Africans. Chinje said many Africans are interested in U.S. leadership issues. Added Kramer: "Technology is helping Africans to get access to information without the gatekeepers."
The program, which was webcast live, was organized during the month that VOA launched In Focus, a 30-minute weekday television program that provides Africans with the latest news and information about Africa and the world.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.
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