Power with responsibility: A framework for a free and democratic press in Africa
As political liberalization spreads through Africa, there arises the urgent question of what to do with the continent's existing undemocratic press systems. What should be the fate of government- and party-owned radio and television stations and newspapers? Who should decide what should or should not be broadcast or published by such media under the new regimes? How, if at all, can previously undemocratic institutions be turned into tools for promoting and defending democracy? What kind of new media are required in the struggle for democracy on the continent? What lessons learned from Africa's past history, and from media systems elsewhere in the world, can benefit this process?
This dissertation is an attempt to provide answers to these questions and lay out some of the options that should frame the theorizing about the role of the press in a pluralistic African society. The dissertation combines political economy and critical cultural studies to examine the application of competing development and press theories in Africa and their implications for the media in the continent. It conceives news as socially produced knowledge and explores the origins of the notion of news as objective truth versus that of news as ideology, and the implications of these notions for the role of the media in the democratic process in Africa.
Two case studies--Kenya and Zambia--are used to try and explain the historical circumstances and economic, political and social context in which the current press system in African developed; how those factors overdetermined the press, and how the factors were, in turen, overdetermined by the press. Toward the end, it examines the philosophy underlying some of the foreign aid-driven efforts to reform the Africa press and the possible direction of such reforms. Finally, it offers an alternative social democratic press model based on Africa's unique political, social and economic conditions--a model that emphasizes public information as a social product, rather than a private commodity for sale--and conceives media that are an integral part of other social institutions, rather than independent of them.
0700: Social structure