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West Africa: Unprofessional and unethical journalism
By Francis B. Nyamnjoh

In the name of freedom

The current democratic process in West Africa has brought with it not only multipartyism, but also a sort of media pluralism. In almost every country the number of private newspapers increased dramatically with the clamour for more representative forms of democracy in the early 1990s. Some countries have also opened up the airwaves while others are still lagging behind. The fact that since independence African governments largely resisted private initiative in the area of broadcasting and waited till the pro-democracy clamours of the 1990s even to contemplate weakening their radio and television monopoly is but a logical continuation of their colonial heritage. Commercial or non-state owned radios like Africa N 1 of Gabon, radio SYD in Gambia, radio ELWA in Liberia and Trans-World Radio in Swaziland [ Boafo and Salinas, 1988:4.], were for some time rare intrusions in a continuum of state dominance. So it is significant that the clamour for democracy across the continent has led some governments to concede to demands by international broadcasters such as the BBC, RFI and Africa N 1, as well as by private investors, to set up FM transmitters within their territories [ Bouhafa, 1997:4-5.], targeting their citizens; an unthinkable concession before 1990. West Africa has experienced a boom in private, local or commercial radio stations, with more than 72 new stations starting up in less than five years. The majority of these stations are rural, and almost three quarters of them are in Burkina Faso and Mali (with 11 in Bamako alone). [ Sangho, 1996:72-73; Bouhafa, 1997.] Most of these stations are "nonprofit organisations -- established in the best traditions of radio broadcasting as a public service." [ Bouhafa, 1997:4. ] South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda and Burundi are other leading examples of private involvement in broadcasting. [ Okigbo, 1997.]

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If the private press and private radio stations of the subregion are often independent and critical of government, they have not always succeeded in displaying a similar attitude vis-à-vis the opposition or other pressure groups and lobbies (ethnic, religious, sectarian and regional). Thus instead of seeking to curb intolerance, fanaticism or extremism of all kinds, some of these media have actually fuelled them. Examples abound of newspapers in Senegal, [ Ndao, 1996.] Mali, Niger, Cote d'Ivoire [ Bahi, 1997; Tudesq, 1997.] and Cameroon [ Nyamnjoh, 1996a.] having served as mouth pieces for divisive forces, often reproducing calls to murder, destruction and hatred, and generally keeping everyone fearful of a Rwanda type situation where Radio Mille Collines proved what the media can do to spur ethnic cleansing. In Mali, for example, the press exacerbated ethnic tensions and conflicts in the North, encouraged striking students to paralyse the education system for three years, and sections of it allowed themselves to be manipulated by "certain leaders of the opposition ... in order to attempt to make the country ungovernable." [ Sangho, 1996:70-71.]

Between 1990 and 1993 the media in Cameroon were highly politicised and polarised into two diametrically opposed camps, each claiming to know and represent the best interests of the society and people. As Nga Ndongo [ 1993:168.] remarks, each camp seemed "to anathematise the other" and tended to consider that "the God, angels and saints of the other are nothing but Lucifer and demons." Guiffo, in his study of Challenge Hebdo and Le Patriote observes that while the former held the government "responsible for all the ills of present-day Cameroon," the latter was thankful for "the luck Cameroon has to have President Biya at its helm." [ Guiffo, 1993:183.] While Paul Biya was credited by Le Patriote for bringing about "la démocratie avancée," (advanced democracy) he was accused by Challenge Hebdo of presiding over "l'Etat délinquant" (the delinquent state) and by Le Messager for "la médiocratie devancée" (retarded mediocrity). And if to Le Patriote the opposition was nothing but "un ramassis d'aigris et de casseurs assoiffés

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de pouvoir" (an embittered bunch of vandals thirsty for power) to Challenge Hebdo and Le Messager "le salut du peuple passe par l'opposition". [ Nga Ndongo, 1993:168. ] (the opposition are the way to salvation for the people). Some papers (e.g. La Gazette and Fraternité) flirted with both the government and the opposition, seemingly undecided where to belong. Indeed, it was very difficult to find a neutral paper, and rare exceptions like Dikalo, which attempted neutrality, were not taken seriously either way. This polarisation in the media corresponded to a similar polarisation in the wider society, where people had lost patience with cold-headed analysis and public interests were marginalized by partisan goals. It was a case of much talking without listening and of exaggerated self-righteousness on the part of most journalists.

In the current democratic process, West African journalists (both official and private) have been accused of professional impropriety, not only by government and other prominent political actors, but also by the general public and even by fellow professionals at home and abroad. A veteran journalist summed up this new trend of journalism in Sierra Leone thus: "Cheap propaganda, rather than reporting issues as they affect the common man, has become the preoccupation of most of our journalists. Most of them are today partisan and, as such, have fixed ideas that hardly accommodate the views of others." [ Sesay, 1998:267-8. ] The ethical shortcomings of the press in Mali have been well summed up by Sangho as "lack of professionalism, client-patron relationship, disseminating unverified news or partisan news, attacks on the honour and dignity of citizens, incitement to revolt against public authority, abuse and libel." [ Sangho, 1996:86.] These accusations levelled against the press in Mali are just as true of the rest of West Africa. [ Cf. Blay-Amihere & Alabi, 1996; Karikari, 1996a. ] The press has been accused of "journalistic hooliganism," of "observing a conniving silence" over certain happenings, while being "irresponsible and reckless" in reporting others, thus bringing their states "to the brink of civil war." The private press has been accused of being light, frivolous and full of shortcomings, and of using invectives to gain cheap publicity. Fellow

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journalists in the official media have, in certain countries like Cameroon, accused the critical private press of selecting for insults, defamation and scandals only public authorities or individuals sympathetic with the government, thus giving the impression that members of the opposition, even those who have served in government before, are beyond blemish. [ Nyamnjoh, 1996a. ] The press has been called all sorts of names, from "cocktail," "bread and butter" or "survival" journalism on the one hand, to "guerrilla journalism," "le journalisme de combat," "liberation journalism," "journalisme insurrectionnel," "jungle journalism," "junk journalism" or "gutter journalism" on the other. The private press is seen as leaning "too overtly towards commentary and opinion." Although it could be argued that journalists probably focus on commentary and opinion because these are much less perishable than the news which they cannot come out with in time because of financial problems, censorship and staff shortage, and above all, difficult access to information, the fact remains that such opinion and commentary have often been presented as if these were the news. The press has also been accused, and rightly so, of sensationalism and of frightening rather than reassuring its readership. Like Zachee Nzoh-Ngandembou, a one time journalist, observes, "In Cameroon every newspaper you read frightens you. It predicts doom and prescribes hellfire." He accuses the critical private press of "uncivilised behaviour" by seeking to confront an indecent government with indecent language, and wonders whether the press "couldn't ... use more decent words and still convey the same message?" [ Cited in Nyamnjoh, 1996a. ] An opinion and concern shared by Nga Ndongo, who concludes, after a content analysis, that "la courtoisie et la décence ne semblent pas être la chose la mieux partagée dans le monde de la presse privée camerounaise," (courtesy and propriety do not seem to be among the most commonly shared commodities of the Cameroonian private press) and that it seems as if the papers were competing for "la meilleure injure" (the best insult) or the insult that is "la plus grossière, la plus ordurière et la plus malfaisante" [ Nga Ndongo, 1993:153.] (the most coarse, the most indecent and the most harmful). This should not be the case, and nothing in the profession justifies the use of indecent language. And journalists should

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know that "the urgency of the message should not give rise to shoddiness of form" nor to rage. [ Agbor Tabi, 1995:8.]

The private press has equally been libellous, and the volume of court cases and letters to the editors complaining against defamation and falsehood, are there, in every country, as proof not only of the state using the courts to stifle the press, but also of the press being libellous. [ Cf. Blay-Amihere & Alabi, 1996; Karikari, 1996a; Ngah, 1998.] The most recurrent criticism of the private press in this regard is the tendency to rush into publication after hearing only one side of a story, and most often very distortedly for that matter. Newspapers are known to be sponsored by some individuals or interest groups to blackmail certain institutions, individuals, or interest groups. [ Cf. Sangho, 1996.]

According to a Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) study of 1993 on public attitudes to the media in Cameroon, the Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV) vox pop [ Broadcast journalists who go down to the streets to sample public opinion on a given issue simply by giving the microphone to people at random, would describe it as a " vox pop ". It is therefore a sort of random survey of public attitudes to a current affair or any issue on which public views are deemed important.] for a radio programme "Cameroon Calling" of 21/02/
93, and critical reaction in the press by the readership, journalists are seen as mouthpieces for competing political pressure groups by the public. This is just as true of other countries in the region. [ Cf. Karikari, 1996a; Blay-Amihere & Alabi, 1996.] The pressures on them to please those for whom they work are so overwhelming that they cannot report objectively on all sides of an issue in the most attentive and self-critical manner, suppressing personal prejudices and sticking to the facts. Although the journalists know that the public is entitled to be properly informed, they have not succeeded in rising beyond distortions, half-truths, deliberate omissions and outright falsehoods, causing moral torture to many. The private press pushes everyone else to the wall with its half-truths or blatant lies, claiming infallibility. Although very hostile to negative criticism of their manière de faire, the private press journalists do not hesitate to judge, instruct, moralise and condemn others. Headlines like "Kill this Man" on the front page of The Messenger by the editor-in-chief

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himself, referring to the governor of the South West province in Cameroon, are common currency.

As Diana Senghor puts it, in the name of freedom and the right to inform various media have abused certain human rights and it is hardly surprising that between 1992 and 1996 "hundreds of legal actions have been instituted in the region against the press, mostly on charges of undermining the dignity and respect of the individual (libel, sedition, etc.)." [ Senghor, 1996:1.] In Ghana, many cases of ethical violations against social responsibility and public interest, professional integrity, respect for human rights and the search for truth have been well documented by Koomson. [ 1996:42-58.] Some of these have resulted in legal suits "brought against publishers, editors and reporters of the private press by ministers of state and parliamentarians" and some media practitioners have served prison terms for libel. [ Arthur, 1997:12. ] This is a development true of the rest of Africa where "bemused citizens have watched with mixed feelings: some in utter disbelief as the ‘liberated’ press makes all kinds of allegations against their leaders; others have hailed the muckraking journalists as heroes whose shocking ‘revelations’ and attacks on those in power they hope would bring some sanity into African politics;" and "flabbergasted politicians ... have vowed to do everything in their power to restrict press freedom once again." [ Kasoma:100-101. ]

In Cameroon alone, where the law until 1996 empowered the Ministry of Territorial Administration (MINAT) to police the press as chief censor, a total of 144 issues of different newspapers were seized for reasons of "public order" between 1991 and 1993 [ Amougou, 1994:164-167. ] and papers were suspended, journalists arrested and detained or imprisoned for all sorts of allegations and excesses, between 1990 and 1996, to which I have referred in detail elsewhere. [ Nyamnjoh, 1996a, 1996b.] In Francophone Africa in particular, the laws in force, heavily inspired by outmoded French penal code and press laws, have provisions which seek to protect public authorities against falsehood and punish those guilty of: (i) spreading untruths or falsehoods that are seen to threaten

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national unity or cohesion; (ii) treating the President with contempt; (iii) incitation to revolt against the government and institutions; (iv) treating the constituted bodies of state and functionaries with contempt; (v) possessing national and diplomatic secrets; (vi) possessing judicial secrets; (vii) possession of copies of confidential administrative documents. The critical private press has been found guilty of all of these offences and punished accordingly. [ Cf. Amougou, 1994:37-98; Nyamnjoh, 1996a, Ngah, 1998.] As Amougou observes, the catch phrase of the censor between 1990 and 1995 was often: "Il s'agit de 'fabulations'; le journal n'est pas affirmatif dans ses propos; les informations non fondées; ce journal ne detenant aucune information exacte; l'intoxication." (It’s all made up; the newspaper is not affirmative in its statements; unfounded information; this newspaper contains no accurate information; intoxication.) [ Amougou, 1994:38.] To have an idea of how the censor functioned, here are some examples of papers found guilty of treating the president with contempt: An article titled: "B... comme Boigny et Biya" (B... as Boigny and Biya) was suppressed from the dummies of Galaxie N 43 du 19 juin 1992 because its author, editor-in-chief of the paper D. Atangana, qualified Presidents Biya and Boigny as "Malfrats arrivés au pouvoir par la bénédiction coloniale" (gangsters who came to power by the grace of the colonial masters), and for referring to them as "nullités au pouvoir à Yaoundé et à Yamoussoukro" (nonentities in power in Yaounde and in Yamoussoukro) and as "d'autocrates, de dictateurs et de kleptocrates" (autocrats, dictators and kleptocrats). The second example is that of an open letter to the president of the republic published in L'Harmattan N 010 du 31 janvier 1992, which was suppressed because of its "discourtoisie feutrée" (muffled discourtesy). According to the censor, the letter intimated that "le Président Biya doit démissionner parce qu'il est incapable de diriger" (President Biya should resign because he is incapable of governing). In the third example, many passages and articles in the dummies of L'Harmattan of 14 au 21 mai 1992 were suppressed by the censor because of "des expressions incriminées" (incriminating statements) such as this against Mrs Jeanne-Irène Biya: "Si le Président est aussi patriote et intelligent que moi, il balayera d'abord devant sa porte, en répudiant Jeanne, c'est elle qui piochait à la SCB (Société camerounaise de banque), et la formule ne serait pas nouvelle" (If the President is as

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patriotic and as clear-headed as I am, he will start by putting his house in order in repudiating Jeanne-Irene, it is she who emptied the coffers of SCB – this wouldn’t be the first case of its kind [ Cf. Mandela and Winnie.]). Amougou's fourth example is the famous open letter by Célestin Monga to President Biya published in Le Messager N 209 du 27 décembre 1990. The censor judged "insolent" a passage in Monga's letter which read, "j'ai été choqué par le ton outrageusement condescendant, paternaliste et prétentieux que vous avez employé à l'Assemblée Nationale ... pour vous adresser au peuple" [ Amougou, 1994:64-65.] (I have been shocked by the outrageously condescending, paternalistic and pretentious tone you used in addressing the nation before parliament). In Benin, where the press had by the end of 1993 attracted 40 legal proceedings, libel alone accounted for about 70 convictions between 1990 and 1996. [ Quenum, 1996:10-11; Palmer, 1997:253-258. ] In Côte d'Ivoire there were 47 libel suits against the press by individuals before 1994, and 20 suits of "insult on the President of the Republic, or insults on the Head of State of a foreign country" were initiated against the press by the public prosecutor between 1992 and 1994. [ Toure, 1996:25-26 & 34-35; Tudesq, 1997:298-300. ] On Senegal Ndao [ 1996:121-138.] discusses in detail cases of libel against individuals and public personalities, the use of forgeries and sensationalism by the press (e.g. Le Temoin, Le Soleil, Le Cafard Libere, Promotion, Carrefour Republicain, SOPI), how the courts have dealt with these and what perceptions by journalists and the public of these breaches have been. On Mali, Sangho [ 1996:72-87.] provides an interesting and well documented account of breaches to professional ethics by broadcast and print media from 1992 to 1994 and also of how these breaches are perceived by journalists themselves and by lawyers. Soola documents interesting cases of pro-government partisan journalism by the Daily Times and the state-owned government controlled broadcast media, as well as cases of violation of professional ethics by the Daily Times, the New Nigerian and Nigerian Tribune on the one hand, and state and private broadcast media on the other. [ Soola, 1996:104-119.] Hisseini discusses some Nigerian cases and how these were sanctioned. [ 1996:94-100.]

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On Sierra Leone, Cole [ 1995:50-51.] refers to a case in December 1992 where "the editor of For Di People was briefly detained after his paper published a story critical of alleged overspending by a government official;" and to a case in January 1993, where "the editor of Pool was detained for a week for criticising the 29 December 1992 execution of 26 people, including a woman, suspected of involvement in two separate coup attempts. The paper had observed that the suspected plotters had not been given a proper trial." Cole also cites the case of several journalists of the New Breed newspaper, who were arrested on 13th October 1993 and:

    ... charged with sedition for publishing an editorial referring to a news report in a Swedish newspaper which claimed that the Head of State and three other members of the National Provisional Ruling Council had made a secret visit to Antwerp to sell diamonds and had used the money to buy houses in London and France. The editorial had requested the government to ‘clear the air.’ The proprietor of the newspaper, who was at the time a government minister, withdrew his proprietorship, causing the paper to cease to publish. After a protracted criminal trial lasting almost two years, four of the five accused were found guilty on all of the ten counts with which they had been charged and fined a total sum of Le 810,000 (approx. US$1,000). [ Cole, 1995:51.]

These examples of complaints against certain kinds of journalistic practice imply that West Africans aspiring for genuine democracy have little interest in newspapers which can bend over backwards in favour of the government, the opposition or lobbies of various kinds. They want the press to be honest, fair and accurate with the truth. Not only is the public aware that the journalists are partisan and self-interested, they are also concerned by the fact that it is difficult if not impossible to find journalists who go for the truth and who treat it with the respect and distance that a news story deserves. [ Cf. FES, 1993a.] Not only are their opinions "informed and influenced" by the groupings they belong to, but they do not succeed in

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rising above such opinions. [ Feldmann et al., 1998:8.] But the private press suffers from the delusion that those who appreciate and encourage its partisan, ethnic, regionalistic or sectarian journalism are representative of public opinion in the countries where they operate, especially as this press tries to give the impression of being neutral mediators between competing voices. Thus there is a tendency in the critical press to see tough press laws always in terms of government's desire to keep the public in ignorance, and seldom in terms of the desire to protect this public from mass-mediated falsehood. Yet the situation is not totally bleak throughout Africa, similar though it might be in many regards. The private press in Botswana offers a noteworthy exception. Consisting of four weeklies and enjoying a degree of tolerance from government that is rare in Africa, Botswana's private press has earned credibility for its critical and investigative journalism, especially following its reporting of the "Botswana Housing Corporation scandal" and the "Newslink Africa" affair. [ Cf. Zaffiro, 1993:19-23.]

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Are journalists and the media wholly to blame?

However, to blame all of these shortcomings on the media and its practitioners would be to overlook other factors that would make it difficult even to the most committed professionals to excel ethically in the West African context. In many African countries, journalists have come to realise that were they to practise journalism according to the rule book, publishing only verified facts, shunning rumour and respecting ethical prescriptions, corruption would wreak havoc with impunity in their societies. [ Rying, 1994:19.] As Rying notes of Francophone Africa, having chosen "la dénonciation ad hominem de malversations financières et de scandales" (ad hominem repudiation of embezzlement and scandals) as a journalistic genre, most newspapers, because of the scarcity of credible news sources, "naviguent entre rumeurs et informations" (swing between rumour and information) knowing that any attempt to respect "la déontologie" (ethics) or "les règles d'or du journalisme d'investigation" (the golden rules of investigative journalism) would mean a tacit endorsement of "une corrup-

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tion délétère pour le corps social." [ Rying, 1994:19.] (pernicious corruption in the society). In Sierra Leone the New Tablet defied a ban by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) with the argument that "an illegitimate regime...had no right to declare a paper illegitimate." [ Sesay, 1998:267.]

In certain countries the difficulties of journalists are accentuated by the uncooperative attitudes of many people in high places. So many years of dictatorship seem to have instituted an ever present fear in officials, even the most highly placed, of the administrative axe from above. The overcentralised system wherein most West Africans operate make people who are experts in their domains unable to give information to the journalist. The government proclaims democracy and freedom of information but does not hesitate to sanction even a cabinet minister who makes an unvetted statement on a burning issue. This makes access to government held information particularly difficult for the journalists of the private press. Some governments, by practice, have usually not invited journalists of the private press to official ceremonies at the presidential palace and other seats of government, or as parts of government missions within or abroad. So these journalists write about the government as outsiders because they are usually chased away from any official ceremony or function. This accounts for some of the inaccuracies that slip through the papers and for the general attitude of scepticism vis-à-vis any information volunteered by government through its official channels. Some African governments would rather trust foreign journalists and media with important decisions concerning their countries than honour their own local media with scoops. This explanation notwithstanding, journalism that has little or no respect for evidence, fairness and accuracy cannot be termed professional, no matter its appeal or its popularity with the disaffected.

Among the factors which make it difficult for the professional shortcomings highlighted above to be blamed entirely on journalists and the media, are: (i) culture of one-dimensionalism; (ii) the legal framework regulating the press; (iii) job insecurity, poor salaries and poor working conditions; (iv) financial difficulties, lack of personnel and specialisation;

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(v) ignorance of the market; (vi) the international community and the underdog syndrome.

(i) Culture of one-dimensionalism

In West Africa (Francophone countries in particular), the freedom of the press made possible by current efforts at democratisation, is something quite new. French inspired legislation has traditionally stressed control and containment more than it has done freedom. [ Chindji, 1996.] The assumption has been that the press and journalists are dangerous or potential trouble makers so that everything possible must be done to gag them. Thus, before 1990, media in the region were effectively controlled either with draconian laws, or by simply making them part of the civil service. The private press was stifled by the repressive press laws that allowed for administrative censorship in certain cases, while the official press was forced to adopt self-censorship by virtue of belonging to the civil service. On the one hand the administrator was co-opted to perform the role of censor, to replace the editor of the paper by deciding what should or should not be published; and on the other, the editor was expected to play the role of the administrator, by deciding in favour of what would be palatable to the authorities, and against what was likely to displease them. It was a case of administrator turned editor for the private press, and of media practitioner turned administrator for the official media.

In the case of the public media, the government had ensured that journalists perceive themselves more as part of the central administration than as a separate institution or profession. Like other civil servants, state journalists were and still are employed by the government, appointed to positions of responsibility by the president or minister and given titles that are identical to titles elsewhere in the civil service. As such, they are expected to pay allegiance to the government by respecting the canons of the civil service rather than those of journalism. Until the 1990s in Cameroon, amongst the things which civil servants dared not do was to strike or betray what President Biya termed "professional deontology," [ Minfoc, 1987.] which in terms of the media meant the articulation of anything that might be

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dangerous to state security. But like every other, West African governments are ambiguous about what constitutes a breach in state security, perhaps because they often fail to make clear whether or not a threat to the security of those in power invariably constitutes a threat to the formal state.

However, the integration of the public media into the civil service permits the government to impose certain restrictions on state-employed journalists that hinder the effective practice of their profession. Not only is the civil service insufficiently remunerating, [ Cole, 1995.] the practice of journalism in the state-owned media is constantly impaired by political and administrative barriers deliberately set up by government, or simply the inevitable consequences of excessive centralisation and bureaucratisation. The hierarchy of credibility in such media organisations, which leaves the making of vital decisions to administrators instead of professionals, impairs rather than facilitates the gathering, processing and dissemination of information for public interest.

The system of rewarding journalists for services rendered is not helpful, either, since promotion invariably means taking up an administrative position and doing more paperwork than active journalism. The danger is that young and upcoming journalists are scarcely opportuned to learn from their professional elders, thus the remarkable absence of a sense of continuity, solidarity or communality of spirit in the public media.

The integration of state-owned media into the civil service was part of the process of political socialisation that governments adopted in order to guarantee total loyalty and subservience from state-employed journalists. Accordingly, these journalists had first of all to accept the political system and its ideologies, or at least pretend to do so. Then they could be sure of conducting their mission without endangering themselves or embarrassing the government, whose long standing quest for journalists that were politically in tune with the system and climate had led to an established pattern of selection, training and employment. Thus the state-employed journalists find it difficult to reconcile the government's expectations with their professional beliefs or with the expectations of the public - a pre-

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dicament which has forced many practitioners either to quit the profession entirely [ Cole, 1995:; Nyamnjoh, 1996a.] or to opt for a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. Taking the latter option has meant the propagation and defence of party and government policies, stances, and action in public, while at the same time criticising or condemning these in private amongst trusted colleagues, friends and relations. For others, it has meant publishing critical allegations against the government in the private press under pen-names. By assuming the role of paymaster for all state employees, governments have procured themselves an effective weapon for exacting unflinching loyalty and subservience from state-employed journalists.

Understandably, despite the political socialisation and repressiveness of the civil service, not all journalists do conform; not everyone employs self-censorship to a level satisfactory to the authorities. Consequently, governments have developed additional strategies to pull into line recalcitrant and tendentious journalists. These included the open suppression of information, and sanctions on failure to conform, e.g. transfers, interrogations by the police, suspensions and imprisonment. All these measures are aimed at driving home to the journalist that he is better off not as professional journalist, but as government's public relations man. A reasoning very much in tune with President Biya's declaration in February 1987 that if journalists or other civil servants "absolutely insist on total freedom, they are not obliged to remain in public office. But if they do stay, they must accept the post's obligations and constraints." [ AfricaAsia , No 41, 1987:29. ] However, while it could be argued that a press journalist who is dissatisfied with the civil service could leave to look for a job with the private press, one with the broadcast media has not always had that choice, given the state monopoly over broadcasting and the laws against private initiative in this domain until recently.

(ii) Legal framework regulating the press

An examination of most legal frameworks in the region reveals a craving to control that leaves little doubt about how the law makers see journalists as potential trouble makers who must be policed. Even the Nigerian press,

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often presented as the most vibrant and critical, has to struggle with a battery of laws the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) "considers to be inimical to journalism or media practice in general and a disincentive to the development of the profession." In addition to the laws are obstacles such as "the renewal of the license to operate," "the right of the authorities to close down any medium at will" and the forfeiture of the deposit made on application in case of refusal of registration. Such repressive laws and practices are to blame for the rise of the "Underground Press" that "practices junk or gutter journalism," yet cannot be disciplined by the Nigeria Press Council since they are not registered journalists and publications with the NUJ. [ Anyakora & Potiskum, 1996:103-105.] An examination of the situation in Liberia, Sierra Leone and other countries of the region points to registration of newspapers as a new "legalistic approach to silencing plural voices" [ Onadipe, 1998:263.] and displays a general ambivalence in the application of the law depending on whether the media are pro-government or not. [ Butty, 1998:265-266; Sesay, 1998:266-268; Okunnor, 1998:269-270.]

Although certain aspects of draconian press laws of the one-party era have generally been replaced by new, more flexible provisions in other countries, often the selective application of the law has been to the detriment of the critical private press and has made it very difficult for this press to have the professional independence it needs. In many a country we notice a situation similar to that of Sierra Leone described by Bernadette Cole. "In Sierra Leone ... the laws of libel, sedition, treason and preventive detention are used to control, cow or silence the mass media, while various press licensing rules and other regulations are instituted from time to time." [ Cole, 1995:60.] In 1993, the control was made even tougher when:

    On January 13, 1993, the government announced new guidelines for the press to take effect from February 1, 1993. In a move which was described as ‘an attempt to raise the standard of journalism in the country,’ the Minister of Information and Broadcasting issued the NPRC Decree No. 6 which gave all newspapers (which at the time numbered 30, 28 of them independent) four

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    weeks within which to register. The registration fee was raised from Le 1,000 to Le 50,000 and in addition, proprietors were to show proof of collateral of not less than Le 2 million. They were required to employ at least six reporters, and have the names of their newspapers boldly inscribed in front of their business premises with a working telephone therein. The editor was to show proof of a university degree with five years journalism experience or at least 10 years experience in the field. [ Cole, 1995:50-51.] Although the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists protested, "calling it a bad law aimed at muzzling the press" and in particular the "small outspoken independent newspapers," the government was not deterred. "When the registration list was eventually released by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 19 of the independent newspapers were not registered." [ Cole, 1995:51.] Such control, Cole rightly remarks, occasions self-censorship on the part of journalists. Editors and publishers, she argues, "refuse to publish if they think they will be persecuted. These developments have led to a crisis of credibility of the mass media in Sierra Leone. Whenever stories break which portray the government in a bad light, people tend to rely on the BBC and other foreign media for the truth." [ Cole, 1995:60.] This tendency to turn to foreign international broadcasters for news on Africa is true of Nigeria [ Soola, 1996:111.], Côte d'Ivoire [ Tudesq, 1997:300.] and other countries in the region and continent. Indeed, "the access that foreign journalists have to the corridors of power in many African capitals is the envy of their African counterparts - and yet another indication of the imbalance of credibility on the continent." [ Onadipe, 1998:263.] In Cameroon the legal framework even in its liberalised form remains about the most repressive in Africa. [ Cf. Sopecam, 1991; Ewumbue-Monono, 1992; FES, 1993b & 1994; Mbida, 1995; Tchindji, 1996.] If one were to judge by the intensity of censorship, the number of seizures, suspensions or bans, the cases of intimidation, invasion or sequestration by the police or

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    military, the level of indifference and hostility to the press by the president and his collaborators from 1991 to 1996 [ Nyamnjoh, 1996a:61-108.] it would be difficult to claim that the December 1990 media law changed much in practice. Whether actually fighting for democracy or simply using it as a smoke-screen behind which they have articulated hidden ethnic, regional and sectarian agendas, the critical private press has been successful in presenting itself, thanks to the repressive application of the law, as victim of a government unwilling to provide practicable instruments for meaningful democracy and liberalisation of society.

On January 4, 1996, law N 96/04 was promulgated, modifying certain provisions of Law N 90/052 of December 19, 1990. Under the new law newspaper publishers are no longer expected to submit their dummies or papers for administrative censorship by civil servants. However, other administrative sanctions like seizures, bans and suspension have been maintained, with possible severe financial consequences for the press. The process of starting a newspaper has instead been complicated with a lot more paper work. Now a simple declaration by the would-be publisher, as provided for in the 1990 law, is no longer all it takes to start a paper. The new law empowers the administrative authority to either grant or reject a request to start a publication. In this way the law has reinstated the former prior authorisation abolished in 1990. Furthermore, the 1996 law provides for an individual, if he thinks that his honour, dignity, esteem, reputation or private life has been injured, to obtain the seizure of a newspaper by the administrative authority. The latter thus enjoys a power similar to and in competition with the judiciary and can take unilateral action against newspapers on the basis of an individual's request. Under the new law, a search of the premises of a press organ can be conducted by the police without warrant and without any judicial action, if the administrative authority thinks that public order is endangered, although still no clear indication is given on what constitutes public order or a threat to it. This provision is contrary to the former law which authorised such a search only in cases of judicial inquiry.

There is therefore little reason for optimism about the abolition of blatant

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administrative censorship, for what the press supposedly gains by this measure is taken away in the same law by more severe provisions that have enhanced the arbitrary powers of the administrator and made him even keener to curb than to protect press freedom. Giving the judiciary a greater say is commendable in principle but in practice this presupposes an independence from the executive that has not been evidenced by recent cases against journalists, prominent among which is the latest against Pius Njawe of Le Messager, who is currently serving a prison term for reporting in his paper that President Paul Biya had suffered a heart attack. [ Ngah, 1998. ] Worse still, experiences in other African countries where the courts have an established tradition of dealing with libel, show that legal costs are often astronomical and paralysing to the press. [ Cf. Karikari, 1996a; Blay-Amihere & Alabi, 1996.] It is not unthinkable in a situation where the judiciary is far from independent for the courts to collude with government to stifle the press with exceedingly high legal costs.

Thus as Mayer has observed of the West, and this is applicable to West Africa just as well, to be able to perform the vital role as defenders of democracy and liberty and as watchdogs for the community "journalists as individual persons need a framework of laws and collective agreements which concretely and in detail guarantee the conditions to fulfil their task and to work under reasonable terms." [ Mayer, 1993:56.] Only as a body united in values and aspirations, can journalists "ensure that exceptions to the right to information are kept at a minimum and cannot be misused to hide information of public interest." [ Mayer, 1993:58.]

(iii) Job insecurity, poor salaries and poor working conditions

Lack of job security, poor salaries and poor working conditions are equally a constraint. Newspaper publishers have capitalised on the helplessness of the job-seekers, who have not been guaranteed regular salaries. No firm arrangements are reached, as the publisher is often more interested in whatever commercial gain he can muster than in professional

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excellence. This has inevitably led to prostitution by journalists or to what one may term a hand-to-mouth journalism, if not a journalism of misery. In 1994 and 1995 when I ran a series of training and refresher programmes for journalists under the auspices of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Cameroon, it was not uncommon for journalists to show more interest in the per diem that the foundation paid them for attending, than in the training itself. Journalists find themselves being forced to make unreliable promises to publish stories or slip in an advert here or there, promises which have led to untold problems for them. Any bit of money can lure a journalist to write anything, including blackmail. In Côte d'Ivoire lack of resources and excessive costs of production have generally pushed journalists "to trample on the rules of their code of ethics, and this makes them fall prey to the authorities," as it turns them into "mere parrots" and hostages of politicians who consider them as "a weapon of struggle for the conquest or retention of power." [ Toure, 1996:30-31.]

Wages are generally low even in the official media. According to Cole, professional journalists in Sierra Leone find that "if they work outside the media, they would get better emolument, quicker promotion, more serious attention to their training needs, better personal security, less chances of their being persecuted and better recognition and status. Consequently, many of the experienced journalists have left the profession for more financially lucrative jobs either overseas or in other employment in the country." [ Cole, 1995:64.] In Cameroon, of the 50 reporters and announcers who started or joined television in its first three years of existence, 27 had, by April 1994, "departed in bitterness and disillusionment to seek better climes." [ The Diasporan , No.1 April 14, 1995.] More have joined them since then [ Ngah, 1998.] and although this is partly due to repression from management and from the legal framework, it is also a statement about low wages, poor working conditions and lack of job satisfaction.

Even with the official media, a journalist thinks that if he writes this or that flattering article about this or that highly placed personality in the

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ruling party or in the administration, he could be recognised and promoted. The main reason is that journalists do not receive good salaries and therefore have to aspire to extra-professional appointments which can fetch them a little more. The lack of job security has thus negatively affected professionalism as journalists seek to make ends meet through unprofessional practices, usually referred to derogatorily as "le journalisme de Gombo" (a sort of "bread and butter journalism" that does not exclude "prostitution"). [ Cf. Tueno Tagne, 1996.] Such gomboisation of the profession has, together with other factors, done much to devalue the journalist and his product in public esteem. [ FES, 1993a, 1996; Karikari, 1996a; Blay-Amihere & Alabi, 1996.] And rightly so, for a journalist's role as watchdog and as independent mediator of information is compromised "if he cannot be sure about the safety of his place of work, if he has to struggle for sufficient income, sufficient leisure time, or if his or her workaday world does not give him or her the opportunity to gain competence in the fields he or she has to write about." [ Mayer, 1993:59.]

(iv) Financial difficulties, lack of personnel and specialisation

The next type of constraint pertains to financial difficulties that have compounded the problems of news gathering and news production, and made papers even less credible as they stretch and strain to make possible every single edition.

    Entering most newsrooms in Freetown, including those of the government media, is like visiting a museum. Reporters are pounding old typewriters, copy is being prepared for Linotype operators and there is a marked absence of word processors, let alone computers. The newspapers simply do not generate enough revenue to be able to afford them. [ Cole, 1995:62.]

An obvious consequence of this situation which is equally true of Guinnée [ Lootvoet & Ecoutin, 1993: 154-155.], Cameroon [ Boh, 1997.] and several countries in the region, is superficial-

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ity, lack of research and background in most of the stories. There is simply no means to encourage specialised reporting. Everyone can write on anything, from sports to politics through economics and culture. But as some veteran journalists have argued, a journalist cannot be good in everything, and doing "un peu de tout" (a bit of everything) is bound to result in superficiality, especially in aspects where the journalist is not gifted. This calls for specialised reporting once a journalist has mastered the basics of journalism. But it means that the journalist has access to a wide range of documentary information dealing with the various aspects of the profession. For specialisation means exposure to excellence and to the ideas of pioneers and authorities in different aspects of society (e.g. religious, legal, scientific, sports) on which the public needs information. The "overwhelming number of generalist reporters and very few specialists" has occasioned "shallow and inadequate coverage and analysis of events, especially on socio-economic issues" and tended "to distance the mass media from the society they are supposed to serve." [ Cole, 1995:64.] Another result of poor finances is the dearth of personnel, trained or not. Most newspapers have a skeletal staff and some are virtually a one person affair, who may be publisher, editor and reporter all in one. [ Cf. Sangho, 1996:79-80; Lootvoet & Ecoutin, 1993:154-155.] It is hardly surprising that few newspapers can afford to go out for news gathering and investigative type journalism. Often they rely on documents (which few can afford to verify) to be fed them by a neighbour's or téléboutique's (telephone booth’s) fax machine, and which to wordprocess or typeset, they have to go fishing for someone cheap and with a computer that can do the job. In Cameroon, the high death or hibernation toll among newspapers [ Boh, 1997:193-230.] is clear proof of these difficulties, as few can boast of enough finances to pay for competent staff, quality processing and printing and efficient delivery to vendors. [ Lootvoet & Ecoutin, 1993:155.]

(v) Ignorance of the market

A militant and unprofessional approach to journalism has meant that journalists are animated more by their assumptions, prejudices or stereo-

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types of the public and public interest than by any real knowledge of their audiences as sovereign consumers of media products. Public interest as a dynamic and complex reality has eluded them. Few newspaper proprietors have bothered to study the market before launching their products. Far from seeking to educate themselves on what the public wants, media proprietors and practitioners have often assumed that the public needs education and information and arrogated to themselves the role of fulfilling these needs. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many of them have failed in their attempt to please the public or to succeed in business. They have not understood that their papers can only become profitable businesses if they reconcile themselves to the fact "that the most important people on a newspaper are not the owners, the editors, the journalists or the staff as a whole - the most important people are the readers who pay their money to buy the paper." [ Garside, 1993:71.] A fact which calls for modesty on the part of journalists, who "may write the most wonderful stories in the world but if there are too few readers willing or able to buy the product, business will fail and the quality of content will be lost." [ Garside, 1993:69.]

Admitting the sovereignty of the reader or viewer is all the more urgent since in many countries commercial advertising revenue does not account for much in the running of the media. If the official media succeed in attracting some revenue from advertising, this is usually from government and parastatals, or from private business entrepreneurs keen on impressing the government. In certain cases newspapers depend almost entirely on low sales and when businesses do advertise, or politicians offer sponsorship, they virtually call the tune. If industry and commerce behave as though advertising were doing publishers a favour, this is due largely to the very unprofessional approach to journalism of which the press is guilty, but also to the fear on the part of businessmen of drastic government sanctions on anyone caught keen on investing in the private press or media. Increased professionalism would most likely lead to high circulation and more advertising and consequently more revenue for the publishers to invest in new technology. It could also act as an incentive to big business to invest in the media industry.

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(vi) The international community and the underdog syndrome

The Western tendency to assume that the press would necessarily work in the direction of democracy if it were free of government control is rather simplistic. Not only does this ignore the ability of the opposition, businesses and other lobbies in society to manipulate the press, it also overlooks the fact that, just like in Europe and North America (as the history of the press would show), media proprietors and practitioners in Africa might be attracted to journalism for reasons other than to promote democracy or human rights. Since 1990 it has sufficed for papers to cry foul, for Western governments, human rights associations and press freedom watchdogs [ E.g. Reporters Sans Frontières of Paris, Committee to Protect Journalists of New York.] to inundate the African states concerned with appeals, threats and accusations of muzzling freedom of expression and a democratic press. It has hardly occurred to them that the media practitioners might be using democracy simply as a smoke-screen behind which they articulate hidden ethnic, regional and sectarian agendas while presenting themselves as victims of repressive laws and authoritarian governments.

It is with this in mind that Francis Kasoma has pointed to the international community as one of the factors to blame for the journalism of excesses in Africa. He argues that the support given "the muckraking journalists to carry on with their ‘good work’ of uncovering the dirty work of the people in government" by Western donor countries and agencies has worsened unprofessionalism among journalists in Africa. He deplores that the West has tended to content itself with "allegations made by the press ... in the name of democracy and freedom of the press" rather than seeking the truth of such allegations. Yet, "making allegations against politicians, based on the flimsiest hearsay and suspicion that there is dirt under the political carpet is not the same as actually exposing the dirt." [ Kasoma, 1996:101.] If the West has often succeeded in imposing its bitter pill of SAP (Structural Adjustment Programme) on African regimes desirous of staying economically afloat, it should predicate more of its assistance to the African media on evidence of professionalism and sign fewer blank cheques than it has done in the past.

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Page Top

The question of ethics

The above notwithstanding, it is important still to acknowledge that unwittingly or not, the press in almost every West African country has, without exception, seen its case weakened by appearing to be regionalistic, ethnic, partisan, sectarian and/or very unprofessional. It has indeed been argued that "the biggest ethical problem of journalism" in Africa today:

    ... is that it is playing to the gallery of political parties as they engage in one political character assassination after another in their jostling for political power. Serious allegations, many of them based on unnamed and dubious sources, are published without the journalists who write them making concerted efforts to establish the truth of the allegations. Consequently, the people defamed are left permanently injured with little or no meaningful redress. [ Kasoma, 1996:101.]

In Cameroon, for example, it is common to judge papers not by their content, but by the region of origin of their proprietors and to dismiss or accept them accordingly. [ Cf. Nga Ndongo, 1993; Eboussi Boulaga, 1997; Chindji-Kouleu, 1997.] In Sierra Leone after the military coup that brought the AFRC [ AFRC: Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, formed after the coup that ousted President Kabbah of Sierra Leone.] to power, journalists who wrote in favour of the coup "were branded ‘junta journalists’ while those who professed to defend democracy were labelled ‘Kabbah journalists’" [ "Kabbah journalists" are journalists who side with President Kabbah consistently, regardless of evidence, in his fight for reinstatement.] as if simply being journalist for public interest and aspirations is impossible. Screaming, sensational, confrontational headlines devoid of any real content or substance have only made matters worse. In Mali, as elsewhere, it is common for readers to be "trapped" by "bugle call headlines on the front pages" into buying a paper just to "realise that there is nothing in the body of the article that merits that headline." [ Sangho, 1996:81.] Quite coincidentally, the most critical private papers happen to be owned by persons who share the same ethnic/regional origins as the most persistent opposition leaders (if not by

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the latter themselves), and the most conciliatory papers to government also happen to be owned by persons from the same ethnic group or region as the president's or that of other members of government. This is true of Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Mali, Benin, Cote D'Ivoire, Nigeria and many other countries in the region. [ Cf. Karikari, 1996a; Blay-Amihere & Alabi, 1996.]

Commenting on the situation in the whole continent, Kasoma [ 1996:99.] acknowledges that the "independent tabloids" in particular "have spared no one in their muckraking journalistic exploits, libelling, invading privacy and generally carrying out a type of reportage on those they report on that can best be described as ‘vendetta journalism’." By which he means a journalism that uses abusive language against sources or any other people in the news they are reporting, chooses not to approach a source for a comment on a story that incriminates him/her, selectively chooses facts that paint a bad picture of the source and writes a biased story, and uses sarcasm in reporting sources the journalists hate or dislike. [ Kasoma, 1996:99-100; 1997:141-155.] To him:

    Driven by selfish motives of profit maximisation or political expediency, the African press has increasingly become the accuser, the jury and the judge all rolled up in one as it pounces on one victim after another in the name of press freedom and democracy. The unbelieving African society watches in awe as the largely incorrigible press literarily maims and murders those it covers to fulfil its not-so-hidden agenda of self-enrichment and self-aggrandisement and refuses to be held accountable for the harm it causes to society both individually and collectively. In its haste to clean up society of its scum, the African press and indeed the world press has often forgotten or simply ignored the fact that it also badly needs cleansing. [ 1996:95.]

For one thing, journalists have not been very enthusiastic to recognise themselves as belonging to the same corps. They do not hesitate to exaggerate the differences between the trained and the untrained, those

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who work for the official media and those in the private press, Francophones and Anglophones. The splits, squabbles and instability witnessed among newspaper proprietors and journalists in the years of democratic struggle mean that the press has been preoccupied more with its own internal wrangles than with a conscious, concerted effort as an institution to pool their resources and fight for better laws and for persecuted journalists, as to well as better inform their readership or viewership. Thanks largely to external pressure and encouragement, professional associations and unions have been created at national and subregional levels. There is, for example, the West African Journalists Association (WAJA), which "functions as an umbrella organisation for sixteen countries" [ Feldmann et al., 1998:16.] and is supposed to publish alerts and take action after unjust accusations of journalists. [ Vogt 1997; Karikari, 1996a; Blay-Amihere & Alabi, 1997.] Even reluctant situations like Cameroonian journalism now has a national union with a series of affiliated bodies. [ Boh, 1997; Ngah, 1998.]

However, the creation of unions and associations has not diminished the tensions, squabbles and divisions among journalists; nor has it led to a satisfactory knowledge of journalism basics and ethics. There are many journalists in almost every country who still ignore the contents of their code. Some unions, like the Union of Cameroon Journalists (UCJ), do not even have a location for their offices, have no knowledge of its exact membership and receive very little in terms of membership fee from its estimated 478 members. [ Ngah, 1998.] Its affiliates tend to compete with rather than reinforce the union. The UCJ goes unrecognised by many journalists (including by an impressive number of veterans) and lost even more credibility when its president, Amadou Vamoulké, became a member of the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) party's Central Committee. Such difficulties and divisions are not limited to West Africa. For two years Francis Kasoma, in his capacity as President of the Press Association of Zambia (PAZA), tried in vain to rally together Zambian journalists. "The majority remained either non-members or non-active members of the association. The few journalists who rallied behind PAZA

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were very good at talking, making all sorts of demands, but did little or nothing to propagate the aims of the association." [ Kasoma, 1996:111.]

Some have blamed the lack of cohesion and team spirit among African journalists on the quest for stardom. On this issue, a veteran Cameroonian broadcaster, Asunkwan, had this to say in 1993 [ "Cameroon Calling", 21/02/1993.]: "Everybody is looking for stardom now and everybody is trying to sacrifice the other person in order to be looked upon as the star." He argues that if the Ministry of Communication had tried in the past to elaborate and impose a code of ethics on the journalists, this was only to fill the gap that the journalists themselves had created by not coming up with one. To him "the journalists in Cameroon ... are scattered as sheep on a hill." They "are a divided and divergent body" because of the quest for stardom and because of excessive individualism and the lack of modesty and continuity. He laments the fact that in Cameroon journalism remains a profession wherein "there are no elders" and where the young are not prepared to learn from the old hands:

    Everybody who comes in knocks his chest and says, well I'm here. In other professions you have respect for the elderly who are in the profession, and they somehow try to guide the youngsters who come into the profession so that there isn't much of a difference. Everybody goes through the same thing and works on to attain the common goals of the profession. But here in Cameroon, that we don't have. And I think this is the point to challenge the people of the profession. The lethargy has been too long. [ Asunkwan, interviewed in "Cameroon Calling", 21/02/1993.]

In Sierra Leone as well "the absence of written rules and regulations before February 1993 as to the qualifications of an editor" together with "the prestige and perks which went with this position encouraged many young people interested in journalism to become editors overnight irrespective of qualification and experience." Little wonder therefore, that "a quick glance at the content, style, diction and quality of the papers

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shows that the standard of most of them has been dismally low. Except for a few, most of the editors lack professional training and experience." [ Cole, 1995:52-61.]

Thus, infighting and the quest for stardom have indeed compounded the ethical dilemmas of media in West Africa. While journalists of the government media are fighting one another for administrative positions and sinecures, those of the private press are battling for survival through blackmail and slander. The tendency to discredit certain units of the profession and to undercut one another has led to undue rivalry among journalists. And the presence of unions and associations with written codes promising to respect ethical ideals and foster professionalism does not seem to be making much of a difference anywhere.

While the press is certainly to blame for most of the journalistic excesses we are likely to read about in the region and the continent as a whole, it would be wrong to ignore the mitigating circumstances (some of which we have examined above) under which the press is called upon to practise. Indeed, an ethic or code of conduct has meaning only if it derives from a context that is conducive to its implementation or practice. A code of conduct that treats truth as a virtue, denounces corruption and encourages honesty or fair play would have a difficult time getting implemented in a society that pays lip service to truth, condones dishonesty and overlooks corruption by making the political survival of dictatorship the only thing that counts. The point here is that the media are a reflection of their society and that if the politics and culture of the larger society are essentially dishonest, corrupt, obscene and immoral (or unethical), it is very unlikely that the media would be any different or that they would have the political, legal and moral empowerment they need to practice a journalism of tolerance, fairness, accuracy and credibility, especially if matters are made worse by economic and financial difficulties for the media and journalists. Karikari makes a similar point when he argues that in considering journalistic ethics and their violations we must take into account "the moral integrity of the journalist, his sincerity or otherwise, his technical skill and creativity, his education and training, as well as the demands of civil society, and the prevailing moral standards of the political and social

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elites who wield both power and wealth." [ Karikari, 1996:145.] Professional ethics in journalism is therefore a concept which, like a seed, might thrive or perish, depending on whether it fell on fertile soil, on rock or on thorns.

West African journalists might be trained locally, but they are made to understand that journalism has some universal canons, among which, a set of ethical values. Local schools of training have seldom considered including courses on ethics [ Boyomo & Nyamnjoh, 1996.] let alone having these adapted to the ethical concerns of the wider society. [ Kasoma, 1994 & 1996; Moemeka, 1997.] Of course, governments have always tended to stress that local schools and journalists must take into account the context of Africa as a developing continent. But this has been intended more to serve political exigencies than to promote a certain African ethic or world view. Things are made worse by the fact that even journalists trained locally are victims of a polarised sort of literature produced mainly in the West, drawing from Western experiences. [ Gareau, 1987; Nyamnjoh, 1995.] Local hardship and lack of job satisfaction mean that African journalists who can afford to, seek to serve as stringers for the major Western news agencies, international broadcasters, newspapers and magazines. To be accepted they have to think, see and write as Westerners do. Also, the fact that these journalists are trained in and use Western languages naturally invites them to think in Western terms - given that one's thinking is often a prisoner of one's language.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when asked about journalism or its ethics, African journalists would immediately reproduce what they have gathered from books on this matter. Most codes of ethics and professional values adopted in the continent are heavily inspired by Western codes or Western-derived international codes and dwell on ethical issues such as those Blin (1993) discusses. The Benin press code, for example, "was inspired by the Charter of the professional duties of French journalists." [ Quenum, 1996:21.] The journalists admit that their activities are governed by "norms that are universally recognised." Indeed, among the professional values borrowed from the West in their code of ethics they see none to be "incompatible

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with the conceptions of ethics in Benin." If there were any disagreement at all, this could come from the "conscience clause" which "clashes somewhat with the culture and psychology of the land." For social and family reasons, Beninois journalists would tend to be conciliatory and measured and therefore "not to push things that far in anti-establishment activity, in making claims or engaging in confrontation with employers." [ Quenum, 1996:21-23.] The Ivorian code is similarly inspired and Ivorian journalists identify with and are expected to respect such principles as accuracy of facts, integrity, fairness, balanced treatment of information, credibility. [ Toure, 1996:28-29; UNJCI, 1996.] In September 1995, at a seminar jointly organised by the Minister of Communication and the National Union of Journalists (UNJCI) in Yamoussoukro, an Observation Post of press freedom and of the professional code of ethics was agreed upon by Ivorian journalists. The post has the powers to sanction violators and to make the offence known by publishing its proceedings. [ Toure, 1996:32-34; UNJCI, 1996:143.]

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), whose membership in 1993 was 15,000, has achieved much in "negotiating for good conditions of service for journalists," and has, with "moral and material support from the military regime" established an International Institute for Journalism training and retraining in Abuja. Other regulatory bodies for the media include the Nigeria Press Council created in December 1992, the National Broadcasting Commission and the National Media Commission for policing the watchdog. [ Anyakora & Potiskum, 1996:102-106.] Malian journalists have created, inter alia, an association for the promotion of professionalism in the media, a national commission for the issuing of press cards and an association of press editors. [ Sangho, 1996:80-82.] In Ghana, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) with "a formidable force of 700 members" "has been at the forefront of the search for the freedom of the press and democracy." A National Media Commission (NMC) has been "set up by constitutional provisions to promote press freedom and high journalistic standards" and hopefully "insulate the state-owned media from government interference and control by removing the right of government to appoint and dismiss editors and members of governing bodies of public

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corporations managing the media." [ Arthur, 1997:13; Koomson, 1996:58-62.] The Cameroonian code of ethics, which is about the most recent in the region, was designed following an initiative aimed at uniting journalists by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Cameroon, that consisted basically of making available to the Union of Cameroon Journalists (UJC) various Western and international codes. It is little different from the rest in terms of its creed and objectives [ Ngah, 1998.] and reminds one very much of such documents as the Munich Charter, the Bordeaux Charter, the European Community declaration on the rights and responsibilities of journalists, the IFJ [ International Federation of Journalists.] or IOJ [ International Organisation of Journalists.] codes of ethics. Mimicry is the name of the game as far as the West African codes are concerned.

However, having a code of ethics is not synonymous with being ethical in practice, nor does it "necessarily lead to the development of an ethical conscience." [ Karikari, 1996b:150.] In Africa there are lots of constraints to the ethical practice of journalism. As Onadipe puts it, professional independence in Africa is generally an uphill task and journalists "invariably get caught up in the eye of the storm" of the "cataclysmic events swirling around them." [ Onadipe, 1998:262.]

The existence of local training schools (since the late 1950s for Anglophone Africa and late 1960s for Francophone Africa) does not seem to have led to a rejection of so-called ‘universal canons’ or norms of journalism. Those who run such schools believe that these norms are and should be the same everywhere in the world. The West might have priorities different to Africa's but its basic assumptions about journalism are shared almost unquestioningly by African journalists and most of those who train them locally. [ Cf. Golding, 1977; O'Brien, 1985.] What governments are more interested in obtaining from local journalism is political control, and not the inculcation of an African ethic, real or imagined. Little wonder, therefore, that the major training schools in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon and elsewhere are state-owned and government-controlled.

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Although trained in the same national institute (ESSTIC), the Anglophone and Francophone journalists of the official media in Cameroon do not develop a common style of reporting or presenting news. The Anglophones have continued to be inspired by Anglo-Saxon media traditions, while the Francophones have remained French or "Latin" in style. All journalists interviewed recognise this and also have an explanation for it. According to Howard, when Senegalese, Ivorian and Francophone Cameroonian journalists talk of themselves as having been socialised into the "Latin" system of journalism, they are referring "to the tendency to wait for events to happen before they are reported," as opposed to the "Anglo-
Saxon" style of "investigative reporting à la Watergate." [ Howard, 1980:6.] Writing about RFI [ Radio France Internationale.] and French broadcasting in general, Gaillard [ 1986:66.] complains about the cold composure ("la froide sobriété") of the BBC style which does not appeal to the "Latin" audience. While the Francophone journalist wants to attract the audience, the viewer or the reader, the Anglophone journalist is more inclined to go for the facts and to avoid opinions. It is generally recognised that training is much less professional in Francophone Africa than in Anglophone Africa.

These differences in style, even if imagined most of the time, are related to the different media systems of the Western countries which have most influenced the situation in Africa. The level of direct government involvement with the broadcast media is not the same in Britain and France. The BBC, for example, is more detached from central government control than RFI. In fact, the ability of each successive French government to manipulate broadcasting in its favour makes it difficult to distinguish between RFI as the voice of France and RFI as the mouthpiece of the government; most of the time all it does is propagate ‘the good official word’ ("la bonne parole officielle"), receiving directives from the presidency and the ministries. [ Gaillard, 1986; Betts, 1988.]

Whether intended or not, the effect is the perpetuation of French and Anglo-Saxon media cultures. For just the fact that a journalist speaks

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English as distinct from French as the first language, already puts him in a specific perspective. His own view of the world and issues is very different and he selectively refers only to those sources or practices that would consolidate that perspective or outlook and further distinguish him from his Francophone counterparts. The differences in colonial heritage are blamed for the lack of a Cameroonian style but the very fact that such differences have persisted is an indication of the lack of cohesive and enforceable cultural policies capable of providing local alternatives to inherited Western values. If local training schools like ESSTIC [ Ecole Superieure des Sciences et Techniques de l`Information et de la Communication, of the Université de Yaoundé .] can be said to have succeeded in moulding media practitioners that are especially socialised or conditioned to the political system, they cannot claim similar success as concerns breaking away from so-called international norms of journalism, be these French or Anglo-Saxon.

Francis Kasoma, professor and head of Department of Mass Communication at the University of Zambia, believes that this situation constitutes the greatest tragedy with journalism in Africa today. He writes:

    The tragedy facing African journalism of the 1990s and beyond, however, is that the continent's journalists have closely imitated the professional norms of the North ... which they see as the epitome of good journalism. Consequently, the African mass media's philosophical ethical foundations, their aims and objectives have been blue-prints of the media in the industrialised societies of the North. Some African journalists even claim that the Northern standards they follow are world journalism standards which every media person should observe. They refuse to listen to any suggestions that journalism can have African ethical roots and still maintain its global validity and appeal. Anyone suggesting, as this author has often done, that Africa can teach the world some journalistic manners has been declared anathema... [ Kasoma, 1996:95.]

Kasoma calls for a move away from money and power-centred journalism to a society-centred journalism that is grounded on traditional African

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communal values and that draws from what he has termed ‘Afriethics.’ He shares the view that journalism be practised according to the ethical tenets of the society of origin of the journalist and agrees with those who have "bemoaned the lack of Africanness in African journalism." One of those he quotes in this connection, Michael Traber, has argued that African journalists would have much to teach the West, where "half truths, misinformation, disinformation and lies" in the press are commonplace, were they to draw from the cultural fabric of Africa where honesty and truthfulness are highly valued virtues and telling lies is utterly despicable and culturally alienating. [ Kasoma, 1996:98-99.]

Kasoma argues that in the African tradition which he would like journalists to draw from in matters ethical, the need for common good for the community is greater than any other concern or interest. "The basis of morality in African society is the fulfilment of obligations to kins-people, both living and dead. It is believed that some of the departed and the spirits keep watch over people to make sure that they observe the moral laws and are punished when they break them." [ Kasoma, 1996:107-108.] It is common to advise and counsel the bad people in the community so that they become better members of that community. To simply condemn and ostracise them is considered to be irresponsible. "The counselling is usually done by elders, who, because of their wide experience in life, are looked upon as being wiser than the younger members of the community. When it is elders who are going wrong and there are no age mates to advise them, there is also room for young people to advise elders provided proper etiquette is followed." [ Kasoma, 1996:104.] In this tradition a person's unethical behaviour may be blamed partly on his family upbringing, and "a person with a good family background is blamed more for the same bad act than a person from a bad family." [ 1996:105-106.]

Kasoma argues that this emphasis in social and communal relationships with the living and the dead has resulted in morals aimed at keeping the society or community alive and in harmony. This implies that:

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    ... individual morals must conform to family morals and if the two conflict, the family morals are held paramount. Similarly, family morals must conform to clan, and clan to tribe morals. What strengthens the family, the clan and the tribe or ethnic groups is generally morally good. To safeguard the welfare of the community, there are many taboos concerning what may not be done and the consequences for disregarding these taboos. [ Kasoma, 1996:108.]

For journalists to organise their profession around African ethical values would entail a number of things. First, they must make the basis of morality in their practice "the fulfilment of obligations to society and to the journalistic corps," by seeking to solve communal problems rather than creating them. Second, they must "develop a deep sense of right and wrong so that they are able to feel guilty for behaving unethically and try and correct colleagues who falter in their journalistic performance." Third, "there is need for dialogue among media people so that the practice of mass communication becomes a democratic and participatory one drawing its strength from the African cultural heritage." Fourth, journalism must be seen as "a communal profession in which the wrongs of an individual journalist have a capacity to tarnish the image of every one who practices it." Fifth, "the ethicality of the individual acts of the journalist should be first and foremost measured against whether or not they serve the wider community and the journalism profession. If they do not, there is every likelihood that they are unethical." Sixth, "erring journalists or media houses should, in the true African spirit, be counselled by the other journalists to behave well and not be immediately condemned as misfits in the ‘family’ of African journalism." Seventh, the journalists must cultivate a deep sense of solidarity and oneness of voice. Only in this way can African journalism "put its house in order." [ Kasoma, 1996:109-111.]

The communalistic values and ethics which Kasoma presents above and has articulated elsewhere [ Kasoma, 1994.] and which Moemeka [ 1997.] shares, are based more on a romantic reconstruction of the precolonial situation and a frozen view of harmony in rural Africa. Appealing as this ethic might be, there is little

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evidence of its impact on life in contemporary Africa where major decisions are taken by cultural hybrids or creoles in the cities who are more in tune with Western influences than mainstream Africa. [ Nyamnjoh, 1997.] Moemeka recognises this when he laments the erosion of and challenge to this ethic mainly by the young in their quest for "personal freedom." [ 1997:186.] The implication of this is that being African is not a static or frozen reality, but a dynamic identity that keeps redefining itself with new experiences and contacts with other peoples and cultures. What we should therefore advocate is a sense of creative adoption of global influences and the need to rehabilitate the mainstream cultures of Africa that are victims of marginalisation and unfair competition. It is true that African journalists have not been creative in their adoption of ethical codes and that they have tended to mimic the West most of the time. But ignoring Western influences altogether is hardly a solution, given the hybridity of contemporary African identity. Although it is not within the scope of this paper to propose ethical alternatives, Kasoma's Afriethic stands a better chance of endorsement if advocating the recognition and valorisation of African mainstream values and ethics does not imply the exclusion of the cultural influences that have reshaped (and continue to shape) African identity since the colonial period. Moemeka touches on this when he wonders if a solution to current ethical dilemmas could be the creation of "a hybrid ethics that could eliminate the weaknesses of the old and the new but maximise their strengths." [ 1997:189.] Obviously, one of the major tests an Afri-centric ethic would have to pass is: (i) to convince journalists of the wisdom of elders who, in the eyes of many youths today, are to blame for Africa's predicaments; and (ii) provide guarantees that the quest for communal harmony would not be used as a recipe for intolerance against outsiders and competing voices, or, as Moemeka himself puts it, to "stifle individual initiative and ... create a culture of dependence." [ Moemeka, 1997:186.]

That African journalism is in ethical crisis is evidenced by how much debate and literature in this domain have increased since the 1990s. Papers published on journalism training have emphasised media ethics [ Cf. de Beer, 1995.] and

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training schools like ESSTIC in Yaounde which have long ignored ethics have created space for this in the curricula. [ Boyomo & Nyamnjoh, 1996.] Training seminars and workshops have been organised on and around journalism ethics in Africa, with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation taking the lead to encourage the creation of regional and national journalism associations with codes of ethics to govern their activities. [ Vogt, 1997; Karikari, 1996b:143.] In 1994 the African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) published a special volume on Journalism Ethics in Africa that addressed a range of themes including the need for journalism ethics and ethical reasoning, aversion to deontology in African journalism, indecency in news reporting, the protection of journalists, ethics in news gathering, news selection and processing and ethics in photojournalism. [ Cf. Kasoma, 1994.] In almost every conference organised by the ACCE in the 1990s, a special session has been reserved for journalism ethics in Africa. In February 1996 Panos Institute and the Ghana Journalists Association organised a regional seminar on ethics in journalism and subsequently published a rich survey of ethical practices in seven West African countries. [ Cf. Karikari, 1996a.] These ethical concerns are not limited to the continent. A meeting on "ethics and media code of practice" held in June 1998 in Amsterdam brought together African, Dutch and other Western journalists and focused among other things on the ethical predicaments of African journalism in a multiparty context and serious financial difficulties for the press. [ Cf. Feldmann et al., 1998.]

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On training and professionalism

Much of the bad journalism in Africa today has been blamed on the lack of professional training for most journalists. A factor which according to Onadipe [ 1998:263.] has affected "the capabilities of the messenger, the nature of the message and how it is received" and has made quality, prestige and credibility to suffer. Although journalists of the official media have, generally speaking, benefited more from formal training in schools of

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journalism, judging from their output they do not seem to be professionally much better off than their counterparts in the private press, most of whom have had little or no formal training. When questioned in Cameroon, journalists with the official media claimed that the training they received from ESSTIC, the local school of journalism, is adequate and that this makes them professionally superior to their counterparts in the private press. The private press journalists reply that although trained, the official journalists have used their technical competence to deliberately falsify facts, manipulate the population and impose a government inspired monolithic perspective that has impoverished debate and constricted alternative outlooks. The official journalists can hardly claim to practise the techniques they acquired in school, as most of what they publish as news comes to them in the form of press releases and official communiques. This has led journalists of the private press to argue that in the current context of multipartyism and democratisation it is precisely the official journalists who have more to learn (call it re-learn) about the profession. The view is very strong among journalists of the private press that although trained formally in recognised schools of journalism, journalists of the official media have operated in a context that does not allow for excellence and that has indeed blunted any professional competencies they may have acquired at school.

This controversy notwithstanding, in thinking of how current shortcomings can be corrected it would be important to distinguish between the formally trained journalists who have not had the opportunity to implement what they learnt at school and those who join the profession out of interest without any training and without having acquired the basics. While the latter need to be introduced to the techniques and principles of news gathering, news writing and news presentation or packaging, those who have had formal training without practical experience need refresher courses to keep themselves abreast with technological developments and with cases of journalistic excellence in the subregion and elsewhere. In sum, West African journalists all need to be conversant with new technology in information gathering, processing and dissemination and to understand the ethical implications of using this technology. [ Pratt, 1994.] Some of the training schools may not be equipped to make this correction, given

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that over the years economic difficulties, lack of resources and dilapidated equipment have rendered them increasingly theoretical in approach. New, more commercially oriented schools do not seem to offer better prospects either. [ Boyomo & Nyamnjoh, 1996.]

A Friedrich Ebert Foundation experiment I coordinated in Cameroon might have some lessons for the future. In 1994 and 1995 the Foundation conducted a less classical, more flexible training programme for journalists, made up essentially of seminars, workshops and practical exercises, based on pre-identified needs of media institutions and journalists. The training programme for 1994 stressed the theories and practices of journalism on the one hand, and the social, political and economic factors that impinge on the practice of journalism in Cameroon, on the other.

At the end of 1994 the Foundation noted that a significant number of those who had benefited from its training programme were not in a position to practise what they had learnt. Some of them were working for newspapers which had folded for financial reasons, while others were working for papers that were not published regularly. To continue training people who could not practise was seen as wastage. Moreover, the Foundation felt that it had given the private press the basics for its journalists to be able to practise professionally. It was therefore decided to focus the 1995 training programme on specialised reporting and that effectively practising journalists of both the official and private media be targeted. It was also agreed that more emphasis be placed on practicalities (actual exercises and practical experiences) in the form of workshops (each to last five days). The following areas of specialisation were retained: politics, economics, social issues, environment, local politics and community issues, and global politics and economics. A 1996 evaluation of the programme [ Boyomo & Nyamnjoh, 1996.] noted that the quality of journalism had improved significantly, especially in the private press. And given that most of those practising in the private press had had no other training opportunity, it was appropriate to see this improvement as one of the positive results of the training programmes. Many journalists interviewed were thankful to the Foundation for its

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"timely" intervention to salvage private press journalism from mediocrity and professional ignorance.

However, although it was evident that the Friedrich Ebert Foundation training programmes had done much to promote professional journalism, especially among private press journalists (most of whom did not know even the basics prior to 1994) the following critical remarks could still be made:

  1. Notwithstanding the fact that most of the resource persons selected to train journalists were of excellent professional quality and remarkable pedagogic skills, the actual training, even in the 1995 specialisation programme, was insufficiently interactive and participatory. There was a general tendency towards university-, highly academic-style lectures, with little attention to the level and context of participants. Hardly used were films, videos, newspapers and any other material that could facilitate learning and understanding. In this regard, collaboration with ESSTIC and the University of Buea seemed to have yielded little more than resource persons. Yet one of the reasons why the Foundation initially decided to work together with these training schools was that their training facilities could be used for its own training programme.
  2. Throughout the two years of training journalists, the Foundation did not develop any standardised and tested instruments of evaluating success both in the short term and in the long run. This made it difficult for any claims that the training programmes were successful to be substantiated objectively.
  3. It is evident that a significant number of participants were keen on the training programmes not so much out of enthusiasm to learn and master the canons of journalism as a profession, but because of the per diem, lodging and transportation offered by the Foundation. In a situation where journalists are not sure of their salaries and where such salaries even when they come are chicken feed, the attractive per diem offered by the Foundation to participants at its seminars was simply irresistible. And many journalists did everything (including outright dishonesty, e.g. tending to change place of residence with every new seminar-workshop in order always to be having the per diem, or pretending to

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    be someone else), just to attend a training seminar. It was not uncommon for journalists to pack and leave, or to go drinking during lectures, once their per diem had been paid. Although the Foundation devised means of addressing "the chase after per diem," including paying by instalment, one is tempted to think that had the Foundation decided against the per diem altogether, hardly a journalist would have attended its seminars, their professional inadequacies notwithstanding.

  4. Some resource persons could be accused of a similar attitude, when they appeared more interested in their honorarium and per diem than in honouring the terms of their contracts.

Francophone Africa seems to have lagged behind in the opening of mass communication training schools. Whereas Ghana, Zambia, Kenya and Nigeria were running journalism schools in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was not until 1965 that the "Centre d'Etudes de Sciences et Techniques de l'Information" (CESTI) of Dakar was opened. It was only in 1970 that Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, Rwanda, and Togo jointly set up L'Ecole Supérieure Internationale de Journalisme de Yaoundé (ESIJY). In 1973 Zaire opened its "Institut des Sciences et Techniques de l'Information" (ISTI) in Kinshasa, followed in 1977 by Niger with its own institute. In 1978 it was the turn of Congo to set up the Department of Mass Communication (DMC) in the Faculty of Letters and Social Sciences of Université Marien Ngouabi. However, whereas training at ESIJY and CESTI was geared essentially towards journalism, ISTI and DMC also train students in public relations and, for the DMC, in documentation as well. Today journalism training schools and departments of mass communication have mushroomed all over the region, especially with the easing of regulation of private initiative in this and other areas of national life in many a country. Nigeria alone has more than 45 such institutes. [ Anyakora & Pokiskum, 1996:103.] In some countries, however, governments have been slow at seeing the need for formal schools of journalism. Sierra Leone is a case in point where "the old British tradition that a journalist is born and not made has had a profound influence on the government media executives with regard to training in journalism." [ Cole, 1995:63.] Cole describes the situation thus:

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    But for a few journalists who cut through all bureaucracy and red tape to pursue academic and professional training overseas, nearly all of the country's media personnel were either trained on the job and/or attended crash courses organised by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists. Up until now journalism training is not a priority in the education and training programme of the government. Nor is it perceived as an independent academic discipline of the University. In my own experience, I found that it was extremely difficult to convince the University of the need to add journalism studies to its curricula. However, in October 1993 a break-through was made with the establishment of a journalism unit in the Department of English at Fourah Bay with staff recruited from Journalism Departments in Nigerian Universities. This unit is to be developed into a Department within a phased five-year development programme. [ Cole, 1995: 63-64.]

The problem of journalism and mass communication training has often been posed in many countries in terms of choice between formal school training and training on the job. In most countries where these two systems co-exist, however, the school system has not been able to impose itself as the only one that can turn out qualified and competent professionals, since many renowned journalists have not been in any training school or centre.

There is no consensus view in the region of who a journalist is. While some legal definitions tend to take for journalist any person who "on the basis of his intellectual faculties, his training and talents ... is recognised as being fit to carry out research and process information intended for mass communication" [ E.g. Cameroon, cf. Sopecam, 1991:38.] others are more prone to go along with the ILO concept which spells out that a journalist is someone who earns most of his living from journalistic activity. These differences notwithstanding, everyone seems agreed that training of some sort, formal or informal, is indispensable for good journalism.

In the light of this objective, training of journalists in the process of newsmaking should focus not only on what makes a journalist but also on

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the qualities of a good journalist. Kunczik [ 1988:233. ] lists intelligence, intellectual flexibility, open-mindedness, versatility, persistence, self-confidence, good general education, sensitivity, comprehension and the ability to make balanced judgments and to talk and write well among the qualities of a good journalist. In other words, a good journalist must not be pedantic, intellectually rigid, erratic, socially indifferent or lacking in self-assurance. In West Africa, where governments have tended to stifle debate, participation and genuine democratic alternatives, the journalist needs to be "strong, courageous, socially engaged" and "willing to make sacrifices and able to stand conflicts," especially in the face of persistent government pressures to make of him a mouthpiece. In the words of a veteran private press journalist, Jerome Gwellem, being a journalist in Africa is "too high a risk to take" and certainly not something for the "timid and chicken hearted," as it entails that the journalist "works with one leg in his office and another in prison." [ Quoted in Nyamnjoh, 1996a:158.]

Kunczik [ 1988:236. ] further points out that the practice of journalism in the context of a developing country should aim not at giving the very latest information, which in most cases means sacrificing careful research and background-giving, but to give sense and to orientate reporting about themes important to the development of the society in the long run. Also, the language used by journalists must be accessible to as many readers as possible so that content can be followed without difficulty. The simple rule is that if one has something to say one must say it in the language of those whom one is addressing. The journalists must therefore learn to use language well. They must be made to understand that the strength of a good journalistic piece is the power or level of language. Many in West Africa today do not master the language, with the result that they present things which look like outright lies or at the very best half truths. They must also avoid the manipulation of language aimed at taking advantage of the readers.

There is also the need for West African journalists to understand that in a plural or heterogeneous society it is normal to have or expect other per-

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spectives. As Kunczik [ 1988:235-6. ] puts it, "Journalism training must impart technical competence but should not lead to homogenisation of perspectives or to impoverishment and constriction of world views." The journalist must not be aggressive and negative, but critically distant and fair. He must always ask himself: Is my report fair? and must avoid sensationalism and the deliberate falsification of facts. Journalists must also avoid scapegoatism - that is, giving the impression that there is an individual, a group (ethnic, linguistic, religious, political, etc.) or a section of society that is responsible for all the problems in that society. In talking to them about ethics of the profession, the fact must be stressed that in reality these norms are extremely difficult to realise, if not impossible, and that they call for extra effort from the journalist on a day to day basis.

The training programmes must be tailored more and more towards the real (as opposed to the imagined or the imposed) needs of Cameroon as a developing country in search of basic freedoms and betterment for the majority of its peoples. For as Kunczik rightly maintains, "development journalism needs strong, courageous, socially engaged people willing to make sacrifices and able to stand conflicts, because development journalism is irreconcilable with servile government-say-so journalism." [ Kunczik, 1988:233.] Our journalists must be trained to serve as the conscience of the nation, which means that their "training must intensively address the issues of professional ethics." For "a purely technical craft training of journalists which does not promote awareness of the ethical dimension can lead to stabilisation of overtly unjust structures of rule. The then technically improved journalism can be used to manipulate the population and for government propaganda." [ Kunczik, 1988:234.]

Effort must be made to teach journalism in a professional way in order to satisfy the "increasing demands for specialised knowledge and expertise in the handling of information." [ de Beer, 1995:23.] It is not enough to endow the journalists with practical skills. Any curriculum that aims at addressing ethical issues must strive to improve the intellectual skills of the students in order for

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them "to identify news and organise these news events into worthy news articles." [ de Beer, 1995:27.] Only by improving their intellectual skills can the students master "the basic elements of conceptualisation, documentation and popularisation of complex sets of information." [ de Beer, 1995:21.] The training staff must combine social science education and a working knowledge of the media, and making a training school part of the university or higher educational system must not be mistaken, as has happened in ESSTIC and the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication in the University of Buea in Cameroon, for implying that candidates for lectureship must have a doctorate degree (3ème cycle, Doctorate d'état or PhD). Such insistence would only weaken the professional dimension of the training programme. Any training school should aim at preparing students to face difficult and ever changing political and economic situations "by equipping them with the proper skills to do their work with accuracy, initiative and loyalty." [ de Beer, 1995:27-28.] This inevitably implies "an approach that would ingrain basic journalism skills training with relevant journalism and communication theory and a sound academic education in the social and other sciences." [ de Beer, 1995:21.] Hence the need for much more interaction between academic researchers and practising journalists.

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In this paper we have discussed how the rise of multiparty politics and attempts at liberalisation of society in West Africa have resulted in an unprofessional and unethical journalism. It is a shortcoming for which journalists, politicians and other pressure groups in society share the blame in one way or another. The call for a more responsible and professional approach to journalism has come not only from politicians and concerned segments of the public, but also from fellow journalists. Thanks to local initiatives supported by Western NGOs and institutions, journalists have created associations and unions and adopted ethical codes of conduct. But this is far from solving the ethical crisis in African journa-

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lism, as (i) adopting codes of conduct has not necessarily resulted in better professional standards, (ii) the codes adopted have shown little creativity on the part of African journalists, in terms of having codes that reflect the concerns and interests of the majority of Africans, (iii) the debates on and around ethics have done little to embrace the idea of African identity as a dynamic and hybrid reality. For a viable and meaningful ethic of journalism to come about in Africa, there is need for a conscious, conscientious effort that draws not only from the experiences and concerns of journalists and politicians, but also from those of the wider society, especially the silent majorities who are still in touch with the often marginalised mainstream cultures and values of Africa.

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