A debate has been rumbling recently in the blogosphere about whether the relationship between civil society and the media is becoming closer than should really be the case. As the director of an NGO that could be reasonably accurately described as a media organisation, how could I possibly hold back from engaging in such a debate!
The post that drew this discussion most particularly to my attention was from Pernille Baerentsen’s After Africa blog, asking the question: How much should international NGOs push the media to provide a certain kind of news? (Some other key links are listed below.) Pernille uses Twaweza’s DaladalaTV project as an example, a project that promotes public debate in the back of a commuter bus-turned-TV studio. Though she likes the programme, she complains that HIVOS, the Dutch NGO behind Twaweza, makes unlikely claims about the agenda being set by Tanzanian citizens.It is certainly the case that many NGOs (whether international or national – and most national NGOs are anyway largely dependent on foreign funds) have sometimes found attracting media coverage for their research and advocacy work to be challenging, and have shifted towards engaging the media directly in various kinds of partnerships. Whoever pays the piper picks the tune, as they say, so the content of such programmes is undoubtedly determined by the NGOs. Is that an infringement on the editorial independence of the media? Continue reading
The destruction brought by digital media to traditional media in the global north has been fascinating to watch, but pretty terrifying for people whose jobs and business models are at risk. The internet, blogs, social networks, and even mobile phones have all contributed to declining newspaper sales and advertising revenues, and to the closure of hundreds of newspapers.
In Tanzania the paper with the largest circulation is said to sell around 40,000 copies a day. Most of the papers are highly dependent on advertising, with the only possible exceptions being those who put political interests before commercial profitability. Meanwhile internet access continues to grow rapidly, driven by mobile phones. With mobile phones, developing countries have already leapfrogged fixed line networks, but they are now also leapfrogging laptops. Continue reading
Who do Tanzanians have to bribe before they get a service? Which institutions demand the most bribes? What actions to citizens take if asked for a bribe? And do citizens think corruption is increasing or declining?
Last week the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International published the East African Bribery Index, to provide answers to these questions and promote debate on corruption within the region. They’ve certainly succeeded in the second part of this, getting a fair bit of coverage in the press and drawing responses from the heads of several of the institutions found to be most corrupt, including the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Blandina Nyoni. Continue reading