Getting it Right, Saying it Wrong

AKA I’m Not Turning Into An Anti-West Crusader, However … 

The latest report from Reporters Without Borders indicates that the journalism safety in Africa deteriorated greatly last year.  It points the finger at the usual suspects like Zimbabwe, Somalia, Eritrea, Niger and Chad, but also raises the alarm about previously journalism-friendly countries like Benin and Mali and warns of worse times to come.

Today, Audrey Brown of BBC’s Network Africa asked Leonard Vincent, Head of the Africa Desk at Reporters Without Borders why this was so.  Vincent’s response, in my opinion, was typical of the misunderstanding of African statehood, international affairs and democracy. 

This is a verbatim excerpt of the interview.  All the emphasis included in the excerpt is mine. 

VINCENT: African governments all over the continent have dared to do this year what they didn’t dare to do in previous years.  Jailing journalists is routine and putting journalists in jail and arresting them for more than 24 hours for irritating ministers and Heads of State is something that we see more often than before even in democratic countries 

BROWN:  So what emboldened governments in the last year that made them do this when they thought they couldn’t do this before? 

VINCENT: Two major factors for me is that first of all, is the fact that there is this sort of African pride in the culture, in the political culture, that has been renewed this year and more and more over the years makes it difficult for western countries to intervene in internal affairs of their former colonies.  This has been a real problem in Zimbabwe, of course, and has led to the tense situation between Zimbabwe and the UK, for example, but it is very true for the former French colonies.  French Ambassadors, for example, have been having a lot of trouble both with the governments who are saying to them, “you are trying to intervene,” and … 

AUDREY:  But how effective were Western diplomats in protecting African journalists before?

VINCENT:  We have seen that the intervention of the African community as a whole, not only western countries, has been effective still in countries like Ethiopia. Last year we had like 20 journalists in jail and the very heavy pressure of the international community and, of course, on the African community on President Meles Zenawi has led to the situation we know today and it is a slight improvement in terms of press freedom. But there is also another factor that explains this setback.  I think the influence of China in African affairs has been very toxic for democracy because China just sends dollars and builds infrastructure without any demands in return and these are very interesting partners for oppressive governments. 

Was something lost in translation?  Was Vincent terribly off the mark or was it a case of getting it right, but saying it wrong?

*A copy of the 2008 Reporters Without Borders Africa Report is available here.  The report profiled 96 countries around the world of which Uganda was not among.

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9 Responses to “Getting it Right, Saying it Wrong”

  1. Firsties Yo!

    I am posting in the middle of a conference call. LOL

  2. This is horrendous. Why do some assholes ruin it for the rest of us??

    That being said, I think the biggest flaw of places like Reporters Without Borders is they don’t take into consideration the difficulty of local media to operate within their own countries.

    IGG anyone??

  3. lol@ Glenna. You have to bring that up now?

  4. @Tumwijuke: You are an anti-Western crusader. More-logical, perhaps, than the rest of us burn-dem-downers, but still. It takes rebellion against what we are taught to believe to begin to be able to see that these people are generally being assholes.
    Read through five more blogs and you will see people from here castigating themselves, their governments, their countries for not living up to this glossy ideal that America has written ‘pon the blackboard (even though it is only for the rest of us, not them). In short, the next blog post you read will be an African saying what that Reporters guy is saying. Only this time it will be much like self-hate, guilt, resignation.

    @Glenna: Is there any such thing as `the rest of us’? I doubt. Maybe there are some who don’t express the same thinking the RWB person up there did, but they only sit on it. Not that they don’t have it. It’s in there. A decade of honest comparison with America can help heal the mind, but that rarely happens before the `Expert on African Affairs’ has written a book and moved on to the Middle East.

    @God: Why did you make the West? Why, why, why, why? Why did you make them people who turn I into an incoherent burn-dem-downer?

  5. Plus, he didn’t get it right. And he said what he got, and he said it right. Wrong from the fuckin’ root.

  6. @27th Comrade
    The media in America is very closely monitored by the powers that be, do not be deceived for one moment. The thin poorly disguised facade of freedom of speech doesn’t fool me!

    The voyeuristic nature of western media thrives when there is trouble in nations they consider to be less civilized than their own. It reinforces their opinion that they are somehow superior to these rabid uncultured people babbling in some weird sounding language that they will never learn.

    Notice how they will never report a successful election or anything positive about places like Africa. It is not any different when they are reporting on their own communities. Community news doesn’t feature foreign looking faces doing positive things. And for unthinking masses, the message is foreigners don’t do positive things.

    They get off on that shit!

  7. @imnxtac: You could do with checking out a rant of mine I called “You Friggin Fool, Where is My Continent?”

    I basically cut-and-pasted your above rant. I just wish more people knew thin shit.

  8. Vincent is saying it wrong, especially up there about African pride. He also thinks wrong, putting the blame on China for instance. Even in countries where Western governments are all over the place the same thing does happen. It’s a matter of who is playing who. Eg, while Rwanda has been putting off France, they’ve been dancing with American and British money. But the media in Rwanda is one of the most repressed in the Great Lakes region, and it is only a few years from now that RWB of this world will be noticing.


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