Chissano: US media coverage of Africa unfair


09 April 2005 11:02

The United States's media coverage of Africa over the past decade is anything
but fair and balanced -- and focuses overwhelmingly on the negative, former
Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano said on Friday.

"Coverage of Africa, by the leading forces of American media, is, at best,
dismissive of the continent's progress and potential," he said.

Chissano is one of the 11 former African heads of state taking part in the third
annual African Presidential Roundtable 2005 discussion being held in
Johannesburg, which aims to find ways of attracting business and investment to
the continent.

Referring to a study of more than 2 700 articles from several leading US
newspapers, Chissano said their coverage showed a "contemptuous lack" of
interest in the continent's progress towards democracy and its potential.

The story of South Africa's economic growth under President Thabo Mbeki and
former President Nelson Mandela had yet to be told in the detail with which its
problems were covered.

There was a direct correlation between negative media coverage and the low
levels of foreign aid and investment in Africa, he added.

"Our complaint is that sceptical and critical coverage does not have to be
cynical," Chissano said.

Former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi suggested one possible solution: "I
would like to see a free press. Whatever is said should be true and fair.
Nothing short of that."

Jerry Rawlings, past president of Ghana, said that journalists needed to adopt a
global perspective when reporting on Africa.

"If a fair-minded journalist would begin to tackle issues globally,
scientifically, it would be in the best interest of Africa."

Turning to the Zimbabwean elections, Chissano said simply because there had been
one or two reports in the US media that the Zimbabwean elections were not free
and fair, did not mean the whole of Africa was in a bad state.

"Because two people had said the elections in Zimbabwe were not free, we can't

"We mustn't condone bad reporting in America which brings a bad image [regarding

His request to journalists to "please report correctly" was met with laughter.

Former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda laid the blame for Zimbabwe's current
problems, especially those relating to land, at Britain's doorstep.

"Mugabe gave them [Britain] 10 years to put things right. They didn't. It is the
British government which must be blamed, especially the present one," he said.

To counteract the damage structural adjustment programmes had inflicted on
Africa's food security, Mauritius' ex-president Karl Offmann suggested
nurturing peasant farmers.

The emerging economies of China and India were succeeding because they favoured
small-scale agriculture.

"They started very small. Unfortunately those who want to help Africa want to
sell us big and huge business which sometimes we don't have the money for,"
Offmann said. - Sapa