Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 28, November 2001 


REVIEW: A Handbook on Journalism Ethics: African Case Studies, edited by Chudi Ukpabi

ISBN 99916-728-6-9, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia; The Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa (NIZA), and Chudi Communication Consult, The Netherlands. 305 pp plus a 3.5" diskette, 2001. Distributed by MISA, Private Bag 13386, Windhoek, Namibia. +264 61 232975 (tel) +264 61 248016 (fax)

Review by Sulaiman Adebowale
Sulaiman Adebowale is Assistant Editor (Publications and Communication) at CODESRIA, based in Dakar, Senegal. He is currently with the Bellagio Publishing Network while studying Electronic Media at Oxford Brookes, UK.

This is a disturbing, ambitious attempt at delving into the minds of media practitioners, in this case journalists, in sub-Saharan Africa, and much more. It strives to condition their thinking by inculcating doctrines that not only challenge the practice of journalism on the continent, but also strongly advocates for a rethinking of the very ethos of media work in Africa. It tries to question more than the who, what, where, when, and why to prod the integrity of the journalist as an individual and as a member of a profession and a community, society or nation.

The book is divided into five sections. The introduction on media and journalism ethics in Africa describes the background of the project that resulted in the handbook, and briefly touches on the need for journalists to be able to balance objectivity in reports of events with their equally important role of strengthening the process of political and social development in their various communities.

In section two, three chapters explore some of the key theoretical underpinnings surrounding ethical challenges to the work of journalists in Africa and the outside world. The section covers how issues of democracy, good governance and peace building, civic journalism and community media, and journalism and self-regulation are influenced and can be influenced to promote the development of the profession and the society in which it is practised.

Section three presents 14 case studies from 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa (three case studies), Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Although the glaring absence of studies from North Africa, of the politically active press in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, for example, undermines the broadness of the debate, some of the case studies are interesting analyses and appraisals of the state of journalism in their respective countries. A wide spectrum of media is also explored: print, radio, television, photojournalism and digital media. Some of the harrowing stories of death, imprisonment, torture, censorship, and poverty - externally foisted on the profession - are juxtaposed with corruption, greed, and illiteracy - internally fostered within the profession.

The fourth and fifth sections cover practical steps and codes of ethics for both journalists and media practitioner trainers to train journalists on media ethics. The accompanying diskette provides examples of situations confronted by journalists daily in the pursuit of their work. The issues covered range from bribery and corruption, AIDS reporting, personal opinion, and self-censorship to harassment, legal implications and the public right to know.

In spite of its unusual design format, which makes it quite tasking to read, this is a handbook that would be useful to journalists and media practitioners and trainers in Africa and the developing world.  [end]  [BPN, no 28, 2001, p 17-18.]

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