China-Africa media cooperation -- a joint force for truth
Li Changchun (3rd R back), a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China Central Committee's Political Bureau, addresses the China-Africa Media Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, April 21, 2011. Photo:Xinhua
For more than 150 years, global information has flown in the opposite direction of wealth: The latter is normally from the poor to the rich while the former is evidently the other way round.
For decades, developing countries have fought what appeared to be a losing battle against Western dominance in global information flow. Thanks to the epochal rise of the developing world, a rebalancing is hopefully taking place.
That change is setting the stage for China and Africa to have their voices heard and tell the true stories happening in their parts of the world.
It was against this backdrop that Li Changchun, China's top publicity administrator, sat down at a seminar in Nairobi on Thursday with members of Chinese and African media communities to explore ways of boosting China-African journalistic exchanges.
Although they are geographically far apart, China and Africa have long learned about each other through Western media. However, Western reports did not always reflect the truth, said Li, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Therefore, it is necessary for the two media communities to establish direct links, the senior Chinese official said.
WESTERN DOMINANCE AND BIAS
Western media outlets have played a dominant role in global information flow and in setting news agendas, thus shaping public opinion on a wide variety of issues, according to a 2009 article published in Qiushi (Seeking Truth), a semimonthly journal of the CPC Central Committee.
Western media organizations, with their vast financial resources, have deployed reporters worldwide to collect information that fits within the framework of Western values, and then disseminated those stories to countries that could not afford to send their own news staff overseas, the journal said.
By monopolizing the global news market, Western media organizations had marginalized voices from the rest of the world. Western media groups produced more than 90 percent of international news stories, it said.
Using their dominant position, Western media outlets tended to project negative images of developing nations such as China and African countries.
Back in 2005, Rwandan President Paul Kagame slammed Western media for portraying Africa as a continent beset with bad governance, civil wars, and other ills while ignoring the positive developments in the region.
Referring to negative Western reports concerning Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo once said some people would describe a glass partially filled with water as "half full" while others with ulterior motives would call it "half empty."
As a matter of fact, Western media organizations have long described Africa as the "dark continent" or the "failed continent," a vast land plagued by war, diseases and corruption.
Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times reporter, won a Pulitzer Prize for his in-depth reports about the crisis in Sudan's Darfur area.
In his writings, Kristof called Africa "the continent where nothing, or almost nothing, works."
Meanwhile, Western journalists rarely have positive views about China. They label China as "neo-colonialist" or an "energy-predator" because of its booming economic ties with Africa.
Yet many Africans do not see things that way. South African President Jacob Zuma said during a visit to China last August that describing China's engagement with Africa as "neo-colonialism" was untruthful.
Pierre Essama Essomba, president of the Media Council of Cameroon, said that past Western colonizers left "nothing good in our country." By contrast, he said, China has helped Cameroon build conference centers, schools, hospitals and highways in the past three decades.
Many people in China and Africa think that the moment has come for their countries to project their own images. And the only possible way to break the Western monopoly, they say, is through China-Africa media cooperation.