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Media Forum makes case for content development

The African Media Leaders Forum has called on news organisations on the continent to pay greater attention to development issues, saying there is the need…

The African Media Leaders Forum has called on news organisations on the continent to pay greater attention to development issues, saying there is the need to enhance the quality of media content. The Forum made the call on Friday during the seventh edition of its media conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. More than 600 participants are attending the conference, which is being held in southern Africa for the first time. Organised by the African Media Initiative (AMI), 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,” Gurib-Fakim told the audience, comprising experts in the media, technology, development, and policy formulation. She charged the 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 Mr. 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 the media to “serve as a catalyst for change by shifting the narrative on women and bringing hidden stories into the light,’’ adding: “Africa contributes the highest number of female peacekeepers, 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 the 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 the 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 chairman, Trevor Ncube. The AMLF kicked off with a public symposium on hate speech, held at the University of Witwatersrand. 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, as well as the effect of technology on Africa’s development. The AMI focuses on improving media content, ethics and professionalism. The 7th edition of the AMLF was organised following consultations with media practitioners on the challenges facing the industry.  “The media must view its challenges through the greater prism of our continent’s challenges and work to build stronger societies. The media cannot grow if societies and economies in which they operate do not grow,” Chief Executive Officer of the AMI, Eric Chinje noted.   During the conference, delegates will benefit from several sessions which provide in-depth, expert insights in 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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