Tuesday, August 1, 2006
By: Swallehe Msuya
A dozen African radio broadcasters visited Minnesota in July to compare notes with other media practitioners in the United States and found a lot of common ground with their local counterparts. Local radio broadcasters from KMOJ and KFAI as well as editors and publishers from the local African newspapers including Mshale, were involved in the enriching cross-fertilization of ideas in their noble profession.
The journalists came under the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVPL) funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The IVPL is a program designed to “build mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries through carefully designed visits that reflect the participant’s professional interests and support U.S. foreign policy goals.”
Under this program, visitors come to the United States to meet and confer with their professional counterparts and to gain an appreciation of the ethnic, cultural, political, and socio-economic diversity of the U.S. Last year, over 4,000 International Visitors participated in the program.
Over 200 current and former Heads of Governments across the globe are IVLP alumni. They include President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Dr Adnan Badran, Prime Minister of Jordan and President Ricardo Lagos of Chile; to name a few.
The IVPL program in Minnesota is boosted by the Minnesota International Center (MIC) which has been able to bring to Minnesota on average some 300 emerging leaders annually from around the world.
Local African journalists based in Minnesota spoke about the need to turn around the negative publicity being drummed by the major global media institutions. They also spoke about the need to help bring better unity among black people all over the world in the spirit of Pan-Africanism.
The number one mission and ultimate goal for African journalists should be working towards the creation of the United States of Africa. Participants in the conversation said it was time for Africa to break ties with the product of the 1884 Berlin Conference that partitioned the continent into non-viable states. Africans should be able to move freely from Cape Town to Cairo and from Mogadishu to Dakar, they affirmed without visa restrictions.
The visiting African journalists were urged by their local media counterparts to sharpen their pens, a tool that is said to be mightier than the sword, and deploy their profession, a profession that constitutes the “fourth estate” to help determine a progressive political and economic agenda leading to African Unity.
Relevant literature was recommended to the journalists that would help them understand their rich heritage and help lay the foundation for re-writing African history from the African viewpoint. These included such titles as “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” by Dr Walter Rodney, “Inhumanbondage” by David Brian Davis, and “Capitalist Niger” by Chika Onyeni.
At the end of the day, it was generally agreed by the panel that journalists from Africa and in Africa should be bold to be recorders of the balanced truth – to provide checks and balances – instead of writing on only those subjects that pleased their respective governments.