Francophone 50

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Blog   |   Burkina Faso

Africa's path to press freedom goes online

The author

Fifty years ago, development journalism helped to silence dissenting voices: One had to rally to the fathers of the nation for the sake of national unity. Accordingly, the legacy of these 50 years of Francophone media in Africa is freedom of the press and opinion. Journalists prod the elites, who are allergic to criticism, and require that they account for their handling of power and assume responsibility in the face of the various scandals they cause. Recently in Burkina Faso for instance, a government minister had to resign after the print media revealed his extramarital affair with a married woman. This was unthinkable a few years ago. 

August 12, 2010 12:27 PM ET

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Blog   |   Gabon

Gabon's press blossoms, faces financial challenges

I will never forget that morning of August 17, 1960, in Port-Gentil when I was awakened with a jolt by the screams: "Long live independence, long live freedom!" Yet Gabon would not see the emergence of an independent and pluralistic press until the democratization process of 1990. 

August 10, 2010 2:14 PM ET

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Blog   |   Mali

Mali's press: The paradox of its two faces

In terms of freedom of expression and democratic and media pluralism, Mali is undeniably today one of the leading countries in francophone Africa. In this year marking the 50th anniversary of Mali's independence, the country's media pool includes 300 private FM radio stations, and about 50 newspapers and periodicals. This incredible blossoming of the Malian press is due to the ease of launching newspapers, the freedom of expression they enjoy, and the liberalization of the airwaves.
August 9, 2010 12:37 PM ET

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Blog   |   Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Republic of Congo, USA

Obama tells Africa forum 'no reason' for press restriction

Obama's Young African Leaders Forum in Washington touched on press freedom. (America.gov)
One out of 10 delegates participating this week in U.S. President Barack Obama's Young African Leaders Forum was a journalist. The forum, a U.S. initiative meant to spark discussions on the future of Africa in a year when 17 countries on the continent are celebrating 50 years of nationhood, did not overlook freedom of the press, as I witnessed in its final event on Thursday at Washington's museum of news, the Newseum.
August 6, 2010 4:22 PM ET

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Blog   |   Senegal

Senegalese press growing against all odds

The author interviewing Danny Glover in the 1970s. (Courtesy Djib Diedhiou)Fifty years after independence, the profession of journalism seems to have retained its prestige with the general public in Senegal. The Senegalese press is considered one of the most vibrant in Francophone Africa. It benefits from the country’s extensive democratic experience and the existence of a journalism school with a good reputation. Yet, because of the relatively unfavorable economic environment and many vicissitudes, its rise comes close to being a daily miracle.
August 4, 2010 12:45 PM ET

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Blog   |   Chad

Chad’s vibrant press shook off chains of the state

The author (Courtesy Kaya-Whorr)

When Chad proclaimed independence on August 11, 1960, I was still attending primary school and had never heard of journalism. I listened only to music on the radio. But there was euphoria everywhere in Sarh, south of Chad where I lived, and we sang and danced to the frenzied rhythm of “independence tcha tcha tcha” by Congolese musician Joseph Kabassélé, aka Kallé. 

August 2, 2010 11:19 AM ET

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Blog   |   Ivory Coast

In Ivory Coast, old struggles give way to new challenges

The author, far left, interviewing Brazilian soccer players in 1975. (Courtesy Eugène Dié Kacou) Independence came when I was attending school at the orientation college in Abidjan-Plateau, and when I was still sneaking to listen to the news on my father’s Grundig radio set. Today, I believe that genuine freedom of the press exists in our African countries. In Ivory Coast, for example, the new press law abolished prison sentence for press offenses. 

July 30, 2010 10:00 AM ET

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Blog   |   Togo

Togo’s press suffers malaise 50 years after independence

The author in the studios of TVT in 1976. (TVT)

In the year marking the 50th anniversary of Togo’s independence, the Togolese press is suffering from an obvious malaise—a malaise perceived by the informed citizen and not by communications professionals themselves. This malaise transpires in the daily practice of journalism through the lack of professionalism. If elsewhere the media is stifled under the heel of power, in Togo, the state, in its “complicit neutrality,” watches the press drift below minimum journalistic ethics where the crosschecking of information before its dissemination is wanting. 

July 23, 2010 2:47 PM ET

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Blog   |   Burkina Faso

A springtime for Burkina Faso’s press

The author, at left, is holding the mike for Upper Volta President Maurice Yaméogo in 1963. (Courtesy Roger Nikièma)

I will continue to relive for a long time August 5, 1960, the day Upper Volta, as Burkina Faso was then known, proclaimed independence from France! As a presenter of the newly founded national radio network, I was on the air, which was open to listeners all night. Some listeners, with tears of joy on their faces would enter the studio singing or reciting epic poems! As much as I loved the radio days of my debut in journalism, I have mixed feelings about the first decades following Independence.

July 21, 2010 5:28 PM ET

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Blog   |   Madagascar

After 50 years, journalism at a crossroads in Madagascar

Madagascar recently celebrated its 50th Independence Day, a milestone for a Malagasy press that has been documenting through difficult periods the nation’s tumultuous journey of self-rule. The funny thing is that most of our written press is in French, as in most former French colonies, and we never really question why that is or find issue with it. But when it comes to radio, the Malagasy language rules the air, seemingly a tribute to our enduring tradition of oral storytelling. Growing up in Antananarivo, my grandmother, like most Malagasies, would drop everything at the stroke of 2 p.m. to tune the radio she purchased in the 1940s to a daily show callled “Tantara mitohy” (literally, “story in progress”), a well-produced but low-budget radio “telenovela.”

July 21, 2010 8:01 AM ET

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