Struggling for an alternative media

Published on Pambazuka News, by Tidiane Kassé, August 4, 2011.

With Pambazuka News publishing its 200th French-language edition this week, Tidiane Kassé – Pambazuka’s French-language editor – discusses the importance of alternative, Africa-led media and the challenges for the future.

When in the 1980s UNESCO was calling for a new world communications order in the name of allowing Southern voices to be heard within a fairer global system, the concern was to exist. The media landscape was at a mere embryonic stage in Africa, with poor content. The exchange had never been equal, and the terms of exchange were not even laid down in full, because beyond a new information order there was also the question of calling for a new world order of thought. What was a right also had to be linked to a cause. 

Not only did Africa suffer from being almost silent within the global communications space, it was also subject to particular ideas and judgements, clichés and false perceptions. Behind a Western prism of ‘facts’ oozed grotesque interpretations of a caricatured reality – whether conscious or not – within devious conceptualisations serving to perpetuate mental subservience. Everything functioned to ensure African consciousness would be unable to ‘make history’ and remain mere tragic puppets on a global stage. Idi Amin, Jean Bedel Bokassa and Mobutu Sese Seku spring to mind.

But four years of running the French-language edition of Pambazuka News has led us to dive deep into the immense ocean of African thought, around the continent and within the diaspora alike. This is a contemporary thought, one reactive to a world made and unmade day by day and which both seizes the challenges of the moment and looks to the future. Putting Africa as the centre of reflection backed by an established history of pan-African thought, this is a tradition of initiatives and solutions rooted in a struggle to see African alternatives triumph and a new day dawn.

Each week Pambazuka acts as a kind of open book on Africa. Its readers are able to engage with the financial and food crises, the inequality that underpins social injustice, the destructive conflicts – as much serious as they are superficial – that tear people apart, chaotic governance, the remnants of Françafrique and the problems of a false democracy – themes which are far from historical accidents. Having broken the chains of subservient thought, Samir Amin, Demba Moussa Dembélé, Aziz Salmone Fall and so many other contributors continue to reveal the effects of the West’s efforts to dominate the South and the consequences for the global South of a system in crisis.

Yash Tandon has written, pertinently, that ‘all history is one of “the included” and “the excluded”, those within the kingdom and those outside of it’.[1] In other words, exploiters and ‘the wretched of the earth’. Tandon is among those who through Pambazuka aim to deconstruct and rebuild thinking left over from the colonial era. He is one of the regular contributors to Pambazuka who show that Africa must not live trapped by notions of inevitability and immobilisation. The continent’s potential and energy, though betrayed at the dawn of independence and at the altar of compromise, treason and assassinations (Lumumba, Sankara, Um Nyobe, Moumié, Biko), are alive and well. It is simply a matter of awakening what is dormant. Pambazuka now finds itself in a year of reflection, while the popular uprisings that have run through the Arab countries of the continent and swarmed those south of the Sahara – from Dakar to Lilongwe, passing by Lomé and Ouagadougou – represent a year of action.

Pambazuka reflects the expression of active and conscious citizens. It puts the emphasis on citizen journalism through an open space of expression where renowned intellectuals, engaged grassroots activists and knowledgeable researchers share their reflections and challenge the misplaced media representations which define Africa as a land of chaos. It is not for ‘development’ that Pambazuka aims to nourish Africa’s cause, but for questions of sovereignty, social justice and human dignity.

Africa needs a more assertive collective consciousness, especially at a time when the West’s dominance is based to a great degree on control of the means of communication and information, as well as the flow of that information … //

… For 10 years Pambazuka has sought to sound the alarm through nurturing this consciousness as a means of saying ‘rise up’! With the 500th issue of the English-language edition celebrated in October 2010, the 200th French edition is a further milestone in the struggle to fan the flames of freedom and sovereignty and to overcome social injustice. (full text).

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