Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga says Africa is squarely to be blamed for the negative publicity it receives in the foreign media.
Opening the first working Congress of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, Odinga said unless Africa supported and aspired to have media that had the capacity to provide adequate coverage of the continent and tell the African story much more vigorously to the world, it could not correct some of the negative coverage it had been subjected to.
“I believe it is time we in Africa put our acts together and our houses in order to generate the positive news that we want the world to hear about us. Africa barely gets noticed on the global stage until it is in a big mess,” Odinga said.
He rejected the assertion that it was the foreign press which was often accused of looking only for bad news out of Africa that was to be blamed.
“I believe that foreign press tends to capture things the way they unfold whether the events are in Zimbabawe or Kenya,” he said.
“The blame on the foreign press has also made me wonder why Africa has no media outlets that can tell its story on the global stage. Why is there no African equivalent of Reuters or Associated Press News Agencies to tell the continent's story to the world?”
Odinga, an engineer turned politician who describes himself as a Pan-Africanist, welcomed plans by some leading African media organisations to set up a 24-hour Pan-African Television service and said this was long over due.
He urged African leaders to begin to accept the media as partners in development and to accept positive criticisms.
The Kenyan Prime Minister condemned African leaders and governments engaged in media repression and expressed disappointment in the government of Eritrea and Zimbabwe especially for their draconian measures and hostile attitude towards the media.
He was also highly critical of the Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe for ravaging his country's democratic process while the continent virtually stood by and watched his bad example of impunity and of ignoring the will of the Zimbabwean people in an election.
Odinga commended journalists for the sacrifices and toil they faced in their work and expressed the hope that the FAJ congress would help to re-energize media development in Africa.
Delegates from 41 African countries including Ghana whose local journalists unions/associations are affiliates of the Brussels based IFJ attended the congress.