Al Jazeera out to give true picture of Africa

May 7, 2014 6:28 am
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Al Jazeera English Managing Director Al Anstey has told Capital FM News, these are perceptions they are looking to change as they seek to paint a true picture of Africa in their broadcasts/FRANCIS MBATHA
Al Jazeera English Managing Director Al Anstey has told Capital FM News, these are perceptions they are looking to change as they seek to paint a true picture of Africa in their broadcasts/FRANCIS MBATHA
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 7 – Days to Kenya’s 2013 General Election Nima Elbagir came under fire from Kenyans on Twitter over a story she did for the Cable News Network (CNN) titled, ‘Kenyans armed and ready to vote.’

In it she showed what she said were armed militia spoiling for a fight in the Rift Valley – what was a hotbed of the 2008 post-election violence.

It drew a flurry of criticism from Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) who said the footage of militia training was clearly staged and only served to further prove the skewed reporting on Africa by ‘foreign journalists.’

“Seems the 5 W’s of Journalism for the foreign press covering our election means War, War, War, War and War,” @smusyoka tweeted.

And it didn’t only draw criticism from KOT, the Director of Public Communications Mary Ombara said it illustrated the, “negative role played by some international correspondents.”

Al Jazeera English Managing Director Al Anstey has told Capital FM News, these are perceptions they are looking to change as they seek to paint a true picture of Africa in their broadcasts.

“Africa is really important to us as a continent to broadcast from and a continent to broadcast to. But it’s also a continent which I believe is under covered by so many other networks. Often drawing on stereotypes in their reporting of Africa,” he admitted.

And one of the ways he says they are working to change this is through their arsenal of homegrown correspondents.

“Often they come from the places they’re broadcasting from and that means they speak with an authority and a firsthand knowledge,” Anstey explains.

Again in the interest of painting a fuller picture, he says it is Al Jazeera English channel’s policy to give voice not only to decision makers but to those affected by them.

“I think it’s really important in our coverage that we hear real voices, people that are affected by stories. And actually get out there, to the sharp end, where stories are taking place. Hear those voices, sometimes challenge those voices and hold power to account when stories happen,” he says.

An approach, he testifies, that comes with inherent risk, “I’ll invoke Egypt at the moment where three of our staff and one of Al Jazeera Arabic staff have been in detention for an extraordinary amount of time for doing what? For simply doing the job of great journalists.”

But even at the risk of detention, he maintains, Al Jazeera will continue to give as true a reflection as it can, of Africa.

“Journalism is full of challenge, from governments to corporations to individuals who want the message to be skewed. They want their message to be articulated by journalists. We will continue with the integrity of the journalism in order to give our viewers the full picture of the events that are happening here in Kenya, right across the region and worldwide,” he assures.

And if the numbers are to be believed, Al Jazeera English seems to be giving other international news networks on the continent a run for their audience.

“Every day 2.6 million people switch on Al Jazeera English on their television sets in Nigeria alone. We’re the number one most watched international news channel here in Kenya and in Tanzania and in Ghana and in many countries in this region. So I can evidence the loyalty and the increasing viewership here in the region,” he says.

And along with the times, he holds that the coverage of Africa needs to change, “I think in our viewership right around the world people are interested in what goes on, on the continent of Africa. That is the real current world order. Whereas the world order that is represented by so many broadcasters out there in the world is actually the old world order,” he said after a meeting with Capital Group Limited’s Editorial Director Michael Mumo on partnership between the two organisations.

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