Posted by: africanpressorganization | 20 October 2008

International Federation wants humanitarians and journalists to work harder to publicize African success stories



International Federation wants humanitarians and journalists to work harder to publicize African success stories


JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, October 20, 2008/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The International Federation today called on journalists and fellow humanitarians to work harder to publicize African success stories such as the huge drop in measles deaths and progress in the battles against malaria and HIV.

As the 7th Pan-African Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies got underway here, the International Federation launched its “Believe in Africa” campaign in a bid to roll back the media stereotype of the continent as a “basket case” from which people, including donors, turn away in despair.

Independent media monitoring carried out for the Federation shows most western coverage of Africa is negative. A parallel canvass of perceptions of Africa held by senior officials, including ministers, in western donor-nations reveals the majority are actually “optimistic” about Africa’s future. Only two of more than thirty decision-makers interviewed were actually “pessimistic”.

Most policymakers believe the media “are branding Africa in a negative way”, as one put it and almost all agreed, humanitarian actors such as the International Federation should do more to publicize African successes.

“As humanitarians appealing to donors we face essentially the same dilemma as journalists,” said Bekele Geleta, the International Federation’s new secretary general, who was born in Ethiopia. “It’s our duty to bring hidden humanitarian crises to light and advocate on behalf of Africans who may lack food and decent health care.

“And everyone knows that ‘news’ – drama and controversy – tends to be bad news the world over. We must be realistic: a sudden outbreak of fighting and an exodus of refugees is always going to be more ‘newsworthy’ than a conflict fizzling out over weeks or months while refugees trickle home.

“But the cumulative effect is that Africa’s successes are being squeezed out of the picture. Meanwhile, governments are becoming increasingly accountable and people and communities are working hard each day to bring about positive change. It is precisely this area of community-level partnership and capacity building that is at the centre of the Red Cross Red Crescent approach.”

The International Federation recognizes the vital work done by journalists who often push on alone into remote parts of drought or flood-stricken countries and send out footage that grabs world attention before any humanitarian actors get in, with the important exception of community-based volunteers.

The International Federation’s media monitoring also showed that in one area alone, business, Africa is seen to be forging ahead: the now-classic example being the astonishing growth in mobile telephony.

According to this research, business news supplies most of the positive “mentions” of Africa in western media outlets.

The Pan-African Conference gathers the leaders of all 53 African Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, as well as senior officials from governments and international organizations.It will produce a “Johannesburg declaration” charting Red Cross Red Crescent action in Africa for the next four years.

“The problems we face in Africa today can only be addressed through concerted efforts to build African communities,” Geleta added. “It’s communities themselves who are best able to identify vulnerabilities and find solutions, but they need our support. “Problems are not solved in London, New York or Geneva, but in the cities, townships and communities of Africa.”

For more information, to obtain B-roll or photos, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Johannesburg:

Matthew Cochrane, southern Africa communications manager, Johannesburg    Tel: + 27 83 395 52 66

Paul Conneally, Media and External communications manager,     Tel: + 41 79 308 9809

In Geneva:

Media service duty phone                 Tel: + 41 79 416 38 81

The IFRC, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross together constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. For further information on IFRC activities, please visit our web site:

SOURCE : International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)


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