African Media Leaders Forum call for media to actively tackle development topics in their content

African-media1_coverTHE African Media Leaders Forum opened this morning with a call to news organizations to give greater focus to development issues. More than 600 participants convened in Johannesburg for the 7th edition of the Forum, which is being held for the first time in southern Africa.

Organised by the African Media Initiative, the Forum was formally opened by the President of Mauritius, Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

“Media owners and practitioners must be active, not passive in tackling development topics, generating local solutions while nurturing citizen engagement and development debate,” the President told the audience comprising experts in the fields of media, technology, development, and policy formulation.

She extolled media to “become activists, not pacifists in the search for Africa-centric development solutions that are economically viable, socially relevant and environmentally benign”.

The event also featured speeches by Jeff Radebe, Minister for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, South African Presidency; Dr Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; Bineta Diop, Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security of the Chairperson of the African Union; and Mamadou Biteye, Managing Director, African Regional Office, Rockefeller Foundation.

In her remarks, Binets Diop called on media to “serve as a catalyst for change by shifting the narrative on women and bringing hidden stories into the light’. She added: “Africa contributes the highest number of female peace keepers, and women were at the forefront in the fight against Ebola. These and many more stories remain untold”.

The Forum’s theme centers on the role of media in shaping development conversations in an increasingly digital environment. The two-day event will particularly look at ways of enhancing the quality of media content in order to influence governance, and build stronger, more economically viable and informed societies. It will also unpack digital technologies available for information gathering and dissemination of information.

Speaking at the official opening, Dr Lopes made a vibrant appeal for media in Africa to use African generated data instead of relying on Western produced information when telling the African story, noting that “ the data that informs the narrative, dictates the story”.

“The big data moment has arrived for any journalist that takes the time to master many of the tools that IBM, Google and others provide for free, to strengthen the continent’s media capacity, “ said AMI Board Chair Trevor Ncube.

The AMLF kicked off with a public symposium on hate speech, held at the University of Witwatersrand on November 11.

The official opening of the forum also featured panel discussions on audience data, the entry of new, foreign players into the African media market, as well as the emergence of a new digital culture, and the effect of technology on Africa’s development.

At the heart of African Media Initiative (AMI)’s work is a focus on improving media content, ethics, and professionalism. The 7th edition of AMLF was organized following consultations with media practitioners on the challenges facing the industry. AMI CEO Eric Chinje noted that: “ Media must view its challenges through the greater prism of of our continent’s’ challenges, and work to build stronger societies. Media cannot grow if societies and economies in which they operate do not grow.”

During the AMLF 2015, delegates will benefit from several sessions which provide in-depth, expert insights from around Africa and the world including: Bridging the digital divide in newspaper distribution and circulation; innovative business models for small and medium-sized businesses; as well as radio and social media convergence.

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