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German Federal Government is improving the Standard of Journalism in Africa

By Salifu Conteh  in Ghana

In the early days of Africa rising to the developmental cadre parallel with our colonial masters or preferably the West, the continent had witnessed many conflicts on diverse fronts, be it Political, Economical, Social or what have you, and in all these no one actor could beat his chest of being in the front ( winner). As a result conflict, poverty, coupled with other menaces had destroyed that social fabric between ethnic groups and the media which is expected to be on the fence to educate, inform and entertain the public is now in the forefront pushing the interests of state actors in their nefarious crimes.

The Media no more maintains that status quo in society of neutrality, giving politicians the leeway to destabilize the journalistic structure to suit their comfort since the journalists are now taking sides, degrading the moral standards and mortgaging their freedom.

This key role of the media in promoting democratic development of society, making the economy transparent and attractive for investments as well as in enhancing education and reducing poverty has been shadowed with so many odds. In fact, history or record holds that many of the conflicts in the World were somehow fueled by journalists in the way and manner they report issues. And many journalists have suffered the brunt as a result of this; either been killed, incarcerated or muzzled by state actors.

It is against this backdrop the German Government initiated a training programme for journalists in the whole of Africa on ‘Conflict Transformation and Peace Building’ held in Accra, Ghana every year.  For the past five years now media practitioners from different African countries have benefitted from this programme, trained in different areas, ranging from peace building, freedom of the press, and the role and responsibility of the media among others, all in a manner of improving the standard of Africa’s Journalism. It is not that Journalists in Africa are not doing well, but since they are dealing with the wider public what goes on must be of international standard. The programme was based on the principle of networking among participants and engenders cross-border learning and international knowledge communities

This year’s course focuses on the Media’s Role in Conflict Transformation and Peace Building. Fifteen media practitioners drawn from different countries in the African continent are currently in Accra, Ghana hosted at the prestigious Maxlot Hotel and trained in the Ghana International Press Center for two weeks. Sierra Leone and the Gambia were given much preference and have the highest number of participants of four each on the course which was due to their outstanding performances and contributions in the past years.

The course outlined covers areas of concept and notions of Conflict and Conflict Transformation, key dimensions of Peace Building, Communication and Dialogue, ECOMOG’s role in security strategies, Conflict Analysis, Participatory Conflict Analysis and Mapping of conflict cases, Conflict Mappings, Stakeholders Analysis and Developing Intervention Options among others; also in the weekends, visits to the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center,  excursion to Cape Coast and Slave Cattle Museum, all to help participants relax and refresh their memories, though many would hold that it was a ploy by the Ghanaians to see the beauty of their country which they say is the gateway to Africa and slowly becoming the epitome of Africa’s economic growth.

Fascinating, was the trip to the famous Peace Centre that is the Kofi Annan International Peace Centre (KAIPC) named after former United Nations Scribe Ghanaian born Kofi Annan for his tremendous contribution in the UN and Ghana. Journalists were welcomed and briefed by Chief   Superintendent Roland Trevisan and made a conducted tour of the building. Amidst the ideas many had over its ownership, it was revealed that the building is owned by the Ghanaian people though supports are coming directly from the German and Swiss Government. The Centre provides training for both security apparatus (Military and Police) and civilians as there are valuable courses undertaken in the Centre.

Welcoming participants, German Country Director in Ghana Siegrefired Leffler said the German Government through GIZ is committed on improving the standards of media practitioners in conflict transformation and peace building to enhance sustainable development in Africa which could only be achieved through the media as its role is vital in society.

The Ghanaian Press Secretary Bright Blewu urged participants to hold fast the tenets of the profession by reporting objectively. He furthered that journalists’ role in society is diverse and covers a lot of issues ranging from peace, conflict resolution, political issues, entertainment among others, adding that conflict transformation action and process seeks to alter various characteristics and manifestation of conflict by addressing the root causes of a particular conflict, it aims at positive constructive conflict and ideas with structural behavioral and attitudinal aspect of the conflict.

Also, statements were made by the Coordinator of the programme Mrs. Ursula Walter-Okine and Mr. Wolfram Zunzer.

Participants and German lecturer Wolfram Zunzer

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