Thursday, May 17, 2012

African Press Freedom and China

The impact of China's growing role in Africa on press freedom in individual African countries is one that needs more discussion. China is rapidly expanding its media activities in Africa with Kenya serving as the hub for most of Sub-Saharan Africa. Mohamed Keita, advocacy coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote a controversial piece for the 15 April 2012 New York Times titled "Africa's Free Press Problem." He commented that "China and African governments tend to agree that the press should focus on collective achievements and mobilize public support for the state, rather than report on divisive issues or so-called negative news." Click here to read the full commentary.

Li Anshan, a professor at Peking University and specialist on Africa, responded to Keita on 16 May 2012 in a piece for Pambazuka News titled "Neither Devil Nor Angel: The Role of the Media in Sino-African Relations." While Professor Li acknowledged that Keita made a few valid points, he took issue with three conclusions. He said Keita offered thin support for the link between increased Sino-African economic activities and the increased repression of the media in Africa. Second, he argued it is illogical that powerful political and economic interests tied to China's investments are seeking to stamp out independent reporting. Finally, Professor Li criticized Keita for relying on two examples to demonstrate the problem for 50 African countries with which China has diplomatic relations. Click here to read the full response.

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