Kenyan Prime Minister Railia Amolo Odinga said on Thursday that Africa was squarely to be blamed for the negative publicity the continent received in the foreign media.
He said unless Africa was supported and aspired to have media that have the capacity to provide adequate coverage of events on the continent to tell the continent's story much more vigorously to the world, it could not correct some of the negative coverage it has been subjected to.
Mr Odinga was opening the first working congress of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) in Nairobi.
He said “I believe it is time we in Africa put our acts together and our houses in order…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…”
Mr Odinga 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.
He said “I believe that foreign press tends to capture things the way they unfold whether the events are in Zimbabawe or Kenya.”
Mr Odinga 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”.
Mr. Odinga said “why is it that there is no African equivalent of Reuters or Associated Press news agencies to tell the continents story to the world?”
Mr Odinga, an engineer turned politician who describes himself as a Pan-Africanist, welcomed plans by some leading African media organisation 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 at the government of Eritrea and Zimbabwe especially for their draconian measures and hostile attitude towards their media.
He was critical of the Zimbabwean President 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.
Mr Odinga commended journalists for the sacrifices and toil they face 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 are attending the congress.
It is being organised by the Eastern Africa Journalists Association, under the auspices of the IFJY, the world's largest Federation of Journalists unions.