Analysis of Western Media Shallow and Negative Coverage of Africa: The Case of Liberia

Africa

By: Josephus Moses Gray – Paris, France/ Mobile (+33) 751060690/  Email: graymoses@yahoo.com

Prof. J. Moses Gray

The role of media is complex and varied, sometimes, media is viewed positively by society, although it is considered overbearing and obnoxious by others especially for political elites, foreign capitalists and bureaucrats who feared the power of the valiant media.  Generally, the mass media constitutes an influential and effective ingredient of the civilized world through its robust role since a media is an important component of a democratic society, and the free world. The media helps to curb ills of the society, provide a check and balance even without the political backbones. But without a free and persuasive media, there will always be a space for unwarranted attitudes which frequently lead to anti-democratic demeanors by a political bureaucrats and foreign capitalists; Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Liberia Graduate School, Prof. Dr. Josephus Moses Gray, PhD, offers insight into understanding the ideas, dynamic and enthusiasm of the subject under discussion.

To keep focus, the work evaluates Western media news coverage of Africa for three years from 2015 to 2018. I have applied the content analyses of primary sources to support or disprove my assumption regarding Western media depiction and coverage of Africa. This article is also gives the vivid picture of the history, development, increasing complexity and successes of the Liberian media, and in other instances discusses the globe media. There is also the belief that the media hold a large amount of power and wield it in an effective manner to direct and manipulate the development of the society. The media does this in several different manners but faces several.  My assumption is that Western media has preferred to preserve its colonial representation of the African continent as a dark and helpless society that knows nothing but suffering and poverty,  corruption, failed leaderships and governments, political and economic instability, war and violence.

Jarosz (1992) has stressed that this dominant depiction of Africa in the Western media frequently discounts the realities and specificities of the political, social and economic development that are taking place in Africa. Western media’s unfair depiction and colonial representation of the African continent has not gone away, still persists even today, and unlikely will go away soon. Therefore, this study of the study investigates the Western media colonial illustration of Africa. The chapter reviewed several tabloid publications and television broadcasts regarding African stories, as such, the publications of the Western media have been analyzed.

Western media coverage of Africa has long been a subject of controversy. Coverage is said to be one-dimensional, shallow, stereotypical (Wall, 1997), and predominantly negative (Biko., 2000). Western media are said to only cover Africa as a ‘backdrop to disaster or the scene of a celebrity visit’ (Franks, 2010: 1). The outcomes of the content analyses of the select Western media reports corroborate existing research regarding the majority of episodic frames and negative coverage of Africa.

Rieff (1998) suggests that given Africa’s inability to make meaningful progress in spite of decades of independence and its massive natural and human resources, the Western media are expected to be pessimistic. Adekoya (2013) explains that much of Africa has indeed not fared well, especially in comparison to the developed nations of the West; such coverage perpetuates negative perceptions and stereotypes about Africans and Africa. He also claimed that this type of coverage is only natural as the media prefer bad.

The media in some countries, especially the ones in which the leaders feared the media, for example, will not exercise the same influence as those in opened societies, the ones in which the media exercise its responsibilities and function as a free press. Bennett (2007) in the book, News discussed and analyzed how news is created and consumed in the Western world. The author identifies four types of structural media biases used to present news, which are the personalization bias, dramatization, fragmentation, and authority-disorder bias.

Areas of focus were news stories, issues discussed, time of specific programs and analyst opinions. Past research on the subject mentions negative and neglect coverage of Africa by the Western media. Since the Western media is too large, I have selected the few powerful ones including BBC, Associated Press, Reuters, Radio France International, Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, ABC News, Fox, NBC, CBS, and Guardia. Bennett ( 2007) defines the personalization bias as the media’s focus on human-interest stories and to identify emotional stories rather than presenting the larger social, economic or political issues involved. The focus on emotion hinders the analysis of the event and it’s implications in the social and political arenas (Bennett, 2007). The dramatization bias also called the crisis news, is presented in a narrative storytelling format. In addition, it follows a movie-like pattern that includes breaking news stories, falling action, and plot resolutions.

According to Rucht (2000), the media constitute a public arena in which debates are held and decisions prepared; these processes are seen as essential for the proper functioning of democratic systems. The   media,   with   specific   reference   to   the   collective   entity   of   newspapers, radio, television and the International Network (Internet), play a very important role in national development. National development involves changes  or  advancement  in  a  nation  aimed  at  improving  the  political,  economic  and  social  lives  of  the  people.  The  real  influence  of  the  media  in  national development will depend on the media themselves, the societies in which  they  operate,  and  the  audience  they  reach.  None  of  these  factors  are  the  same  everywhere,  at  all  times,  or  under  all  conditions.

  The media plays a critical role in improving governance and reducing corruption, increasing economic efficiency and stability, and creating positive social and environmental change. The media is an indispensable element of society and a “mirror” of the contemporary world, it is the media that shapes public opinions and served as a conduit between the government and the people.

       It also set the public agenda, performs watchdog role and help to expose societal ills and fights against bad governance, including corruption, abuse of state wealth, human rights and constitutional violations, and oppressive actions and policies (Front Page Africa, 2018). The media further plays several roles in the society and lessens the information gap between the government and population, inform, interpret, educate and entertain and also convey precise needed information regarding politics, economic, social cultural and environment.

An influential United Kingdom tabloid magazine, the Economist in one of its month of May 2000 editions became celebrated for signifying how Africa is characterized by western journalists in the Western media. In Its characteristic of the African continent, the tabloid brazenly described Africa as the “hopeless continent and unsubstantiated that the new millennium has brought more disaster than hope to Africa.   Such an unfounded representative of Africa persists in the Western media for decades despite Africa’s strategic role in global politics. Mainly, the Western journalists have persistently depicted the African society as Dark Continent categorized by flagrant corruption, political instability, rampant diseases, tribal anarchy, civil war, failed and incompetent leadership, abject poverty, and primeval civilizations. Sightlessly, the Western journalists’ constant biased representation of Africa overlooks the many success stories in the context of political, social and economic gains that have been taking place in Africa.

However, while the perceived negative coverage and distortion of the continent by the western media have been cited as a problem, specific African countries receive even less coverage or treated with less attention, except where happenings of such magnitude and significance as cannot be disregarded ensue. This is obvious by the U.S. and Europe media coverage of individual African countries. My assumption is that the Western media perception of Africa’s representations suggests that African countries are only covered as a consequence of negative events and are of even less significance.

Most of the stories, based on the content analyses, covered by the Western media centered on violent protests, terrorist attacks, political instability,  tribal anarchy, civil war, corruption, rampant diseases, riots, and corrupt elections. These consequences especially terrorist attacks and the outbreak of rampant diseases, perhaps due to their magnitude and threats, are usually treated with attention in the Western media, broadly feathering in headlines, front pages, and prime time broadcast.

According to Rucht (2000), media’s performance in enabling environment and shaping public communication, media’s relations with other societal stakeholders and intermediaries, and its changing role in the process of globalization. There is a general consensus that media are essential element of democracy if they fulfill particular quality requirements in their reporting. Abundant literature deals with media quality from a theoretical perspective, but empirical knowledge on journalistic practice with regard to its role in democratization is rare, and this is even more so in the case of African countries.

Isaak (1981) asserted that the mass media are globally regarded as the most important and strategic agent of socialization. He maintains that “adult attitudes toward most issues are the result mainly of newspapers, television and radio news reports. While Trenaman and McQuail (1981 quoted in McQuail, 1987) argued that “the evidence strongly suggests that people think about what they are told by the media. According to studies, the word media comes from the Latin word medium, and it is used as a collective noun to refer to newspapers, television, radio, magazines, films, and internet, playing a very important role in national development.

Trenaman1981) revealed that media play several roles in the society, including serving as a means to distribute news and convey information regarding politics, economic, social and development. For Liberia, which enjoys unlimited media prospect, media emerged as a dominant social figure and it enables dialogue to take place and make government more accountable as well as bridging the gap between government officials and the citizens.  According to several media specialists,  the media set the public agenda and acts as the gatekeeper of public issues and perform the watchdog role, especially in political situation and fight against bad governance, including corruption, abuse of state wealth, human rights, constitutional violations, and autocratic activities of some corrupt public bureaucrats (Front Page Africa, 2018)

The mass media tradition role takes place from two main domains -public and the private. The public domain means the central administration directly funded and operates the various forms of the media while the private domain which is the people-centered composed of individual, religious institutions, business tycoons, and corporations operate print and electronic media. The media plays a critical role in improving governance and reducing corruption, increasing economic efficiency and stability, and creating positive social and environmental change. The media is an indispensable element of the society and a “mirror” of the contemporary world, it is the media which shapes public opinions and served as a conduit between the government and the people.

It also set the public agenda, performs watchdog role and help to expose societal ills and fights against bad governance, including corruption, abuse of state wealth, human rights and constitutional violations, and oppressive actions and policies. The media further plays several roles in the society and lessens the information gap between the government and population, inform, interpret, educate and entertain and also convey precise needed information regarding politics, economic, social cultural and environment.

The relationship between the government and the press differs in the various countries and regions since geography and environment have a greater impact on the practice of journalism. In some geographical locations, freedom of the press is unrestricted while for other places especially in autocratic nation freedom of the media is national. Therefore, to better comprehend the dynamics and practice of journalism in Africa; it is essential to make a critical comparison with the media that exists in other parts of the world. For instance, let use Liberia as a case study to set the basis of the assessment.

Interestingly, press freedom on the continent from the colonial period to the present has its own contradiction primarily due to the African 55 countries diverse cultural, ethnicities, political and geography.  Also, the diverse collection of political and models inherited from European colonial regimes and traditional African system is having a greater effect on the practice of journalism in contemporary Africa, with the continent huge illiteracy and poverty demography playing a vast part(Front Page Africa, 2018).

The media in some countries, especially the ones in which the leaders feared the media, for example, will not exercise the same influence as those in democratic societies, the ones in which the media enjoys its responsibilities and function as a free press. Even among similar types of government, other factors, such as technology, the target audience and the message, may influence the extent of media impact on the society.  It tells about the people who are geographically divided. The real influence of the media in national development will depend on the media themselves, the societies in which they operate, and the audience they reach.

There have been serious concerns of how the Western media covered or treat stories from the African continent, with media commentators and political pundits describing the coverage of developments from Africa by Western media focusing on “negative “news. Although the issue of “bad news” cut across the world from one continent to another and from a region to other but the Western media coverage of the continent is negative while on some occasions “fake news” about the continent regularly finds it way into the Western media. This is not only limited to Africa but also the Middle East, Asia and South America.

The continent media specialists have persistently criticized Western media for portraying Africa negatively globally but a Western media professor, Scott argued in this journal that this criticism has become taken for granted to the point of becoming a fairytale.

A respectable Kenyan author Wainaina (2005) printed an essay turning into derision the way Western writers, journalists and poets portrait and tells Africa’s stories globally.  Although it has not been substantiated, one can definitely conclude that the existing.   Western media representations of Africa are still shaped by exoticism, colonial ideas, and, eventually, prejudice and white superiority, while another argument blamed Africa’s bad leaderships, greed, corrupt practices and abused of public resources, bad governance and unworkable policies significant contribute to the negative media coverage of the continent by Western media and authors.

However, there is a significant body of literature that has supported the two analyses and arguments. There is a long-standing critique of Western media coverage of Africa as the assessment has been concerned with the perceived flop of Western media to offer an equilibrium illustration of Africa.       According to Brookes (1995) the inscription of different news stories in a cohesive symbolic system of references specific to “Africa”, journalistic discourse reproduces a view of “Africa as a country”, as “a homogenous block with violence, helplessness, human rights abuses and lack of democracy as its main characteristics, with several literatures suggesting that these features have been observed nearly systematically in previous publications.

Outside scarcity and negativity, they are what make the discursive construction of Africa in international media peculiar and linked it to stereotyping, in addition, the publications tend to focus on the coverage of a narrow range of topics related to war, conflict, disaster, crisis, political instability, corruption, failed leaderships and unworkable policies and violence. With the stroke of a journalist’s pen, the African continent and her descendants are pejoratively reduced to nothing: a bastion of disease, savagery, animism, pestilence, war, famine, despotism, primitivism, poverty, and ubiquitous images of children, flies in their food and faces, their stomachs distended. For example, Scott in his journal argued that the Western criticism has become taken for granted to the point of becoming a fairytale.

A Kenyan author, Wainaina (2005) published an essay turning into disdain the way Western authors from journalists to novelists write about and portrayed Africa. He propounded that contemporary Western media representations of Africa are still shaped by colonial ideas, exoticism, feeling of white superiority and, ultimately, racism but this author, Professor Josephus Moses Gray in some illustrations disagreed.

   Cases of Western Media Coverage of Liberia

For  Liberian Civil War and its events ranging from the arrest and sentence of Charles Taylor, the election of Africa first democratically elected female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the election of world’s soccer legend, George Weah as President of Liberia and the mysterious disappearance of 16 billion Liberian dollars, were among stories highlighted on the front pages and headlines of the Western media coverage of Liberia.  Thousands of Liberians took to the streets of the capital, Monrovia, on Friday to protest against the corruption and economic decline that many blame on their once hugely popular president, former football star George Weah(Reuters, 2019), while DW (2019) News headline reads: Former Liberian president’s son detained over missing cash. The Guardian (2019) FrontPage captured:  Protests in Liberia over George Weah’s failure to tackle corruption”, and France 24(2019) reports: Protests in Liberia over George Weah’s failure to tackle corruption.

      Other Western media coverage of Liberia also trained the nation’s image with various headlines such as: Liberians are angry about missing $15.5 Billions (BBC News, 2019), while Fox News (2019) reports: Crowds descend on Liberia’s capital to protest president”; and CNN (2019) headlines reads: Social media blocked as Liberians protest ‘corruption and creeping dictatorship’. The International business Times(2019) headlines reads:  Liberians Protest Against President Due To Corruption, As Social Media Is Blocked”. RSF decries attack on Monrovia radio station.   

    The Guardian (2013) banner headline read:  All 25,000 candidates fail Liberian university entrance exam, while the Voice of America and Al Jazeera (2013) headlines read : Liberians fail university exams.  Other western media coverage of happenings in Liberia includes BBC (2013) reported: Liberian students All fail university Admonition Exams. For African News (2013) headlines were: Massive Exams Failure in Liberia.While the New York Times (2014)  headline reads: Clashes Erupt as Liberia Sets as Ebola Quarantine and 2014 major headline of the Geographic states: Ebola Crisis Spreads in West Africa, Liberia’s Deterioration Stands Out.

Examples of Western Media Coverage of Africa

On the other hand, little is said about Africa’s strategic importance to so called industrialized nations; the continent’s  indispensability and relevance to world development, global technology, and the wealth of nations, derived from involuntary African largesse, are not acclaimed in the media. It has been observed that Africa’s image in the Western media is not a significantly self-portrait and it is not what you see is what you get or see for yourself.

Africa is mostly treated with disdain by the Western media because media conditioning shapes, molds, and monopolizes those images.  This negative portrait of Africa cannot squally be attributed to the Western media but also to African corrupt leaderships and political bureaucrats and capitalists especially the continent’s  governments  and leaderships’  failed policies also profoundly contribute to how Africa is projected negatively globally.

It is clear fact that Africa constitutes the poorest continent in the world and is mostly attended with negative portrait and neglected by Western media. It is predominantly portrayed negatively” by the Western media on the basis that 85 percent of the stories and articles linked the continent to bad governance, insurgencies, rampant corruption  and abuse of resources, undemocratic and unworkable policies, abject crusading poverty, suffering, hunger, crimes, briberies, migration, war, protest and failed leaderships and most often, imposed unwarranted hardship. The Western media community usually takes advantage of the failures of the continent’s media inscription of presenting the true events most beyond negativity, and gives fame positive development or soft news like developments.

There are visible evidences of a modus operandi western media employs to precisely dump negative news materials and information when disseminating and providing converging concerning  Africa’s innumerable natural riches, which is barely available to its indigenous poverty-stricken populations and poor management of African leaders to governance in line with best democratic practices are endangered by insatiable Western consumption.

Whether Africa is the most neglected geographical area in Western media or not, the existing literature shows that it has consistently been one of the most neglected, while consensual observation is that the Western media coverage of the continent focuses on “negative stories” and follows a “crisis-driven news agenda. But what do we know pragmatically best about Western media coverage of Africa and other regions? This article provides an in-depth insight and analysis to address the response.

However, there are several pitfalls in reducing the analysis of Africa’s coverage to focus on “negative “news. Firstly, the phenomenon of “bad news “is not specific to Africa. De Beer (2010), for instance, found that the tone of news reports about Africa in developed media especially the Western press is predominantly negative (74.1 percent) but that it is less for other regions.  Along with the adage , “if it bleeds, it leads” the idea of news more generally is crossed by a negativity bias. But, the existing evidence for such a “negative” focus may not be as strong as insinuated by the prevalent claims in numerous literatures; this is a question of one interpretation and perception of developments on the African continent.

The “negativity” is a fairly subjective criterion used by the Western media to portray Africa wholly. For instance, the wave of demonstrations and riots in, Zimbabwe, Kenya,  Guinea and several African states regarding bad governances, increment of the price of gasoline and diesels; riot in Burkina Faso in response to former President Blaise Compaoré’s attempt to amend the constitution; the violence protest in Kenya owing to disputed elections; the 2011 coordinated Arab Spring across North Africa and the persistent Boko Harm’s insurgency in Nigeria cannot be termed as biases of the Western media.

For instance, “Liberia is predominantly portrayed negatively” on the basis that 90 percent of the articles linked the country to corruption and failed institutions while Nigeria is portrayed negatively on the basis that 99 percent of stories and articles linked the country to crimes and terrorism. The situation is not only unique to the two countries but the majorities of the African countries, whereas “only” 25 percent linked them to sport, democracy and infrastructure.

Although in the field of media and journalism studies, there is a significant body of useful texts that has supported Wainaina’s analysis, from the early 1990s to today multipolar world. There is a persistent criticism of Western media coverage of the African continent in media and communication studies. Broadly, this critique has been concerned with the perceived failure of Western media to offer a composed depiction of Africa ((New Dawn, 2019).

Additional events are the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and the death of four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and NATO military intervention in Libya.  The long-simmering hostility between the Mali government and the northern Taureg ethnic group exploded with the Taureg conquest of northern Mali, the fall of President Omar al-Bashir and his detention. The Western media also pays attention and gives attention to events regarding the fall of Robert Mugabe and his death; while Western media analysts biasedly have depicted the late Mugabe negatively in their analyses of his profile.  The coverage perpetuates negative towards Jacob Zuma of South Africa, nothing positive but every publication about his leadership was corruption and poor leadership. While Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki who served as the second president of South Africa also experienced similar negative Western media coverage. Other African stories reported by the Western media are the famous be Battle of Mogadishu fought between a United States Special Forces team and Somali rebels loyal to the self-proclaimed Somalian president Mohamed Farrah Aidid, anti-piracy operations off the Somali coastline and al-Shabaab terrorists continue attacks Kenya and Somalia.

Major events that were captured in the headlines, front pages and prime time of Western media coverage of Africa include the forceful removal from power of Blaise Compaoré of Burki Faso by mass citizen action and Koudou Laurent Gbagbo and his arrest. While President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial for crimes against humanity after an election that may spark violence featured by the Western media, and persistent brutal rebels war in the Central African Republic, and war in Darfur and instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo are reported.

The outbreak of life-threatening diseases such as Ebola in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and DR Congo were wildly reported in the Western media. Other areas of Western media coverage of African stories show election violence, a tribal war over land, political instability and hunger. These  America and Europe media BBC, Associated Press, Reuters, Radio France International, Washington Post, New York Time, CNN, ABC News, Fox, NBC, CBS, and Guardian about 90% coverage of African continent focus on negative stories while less attention is given successful stories or events in Africa.   For examples New York Times (2013) reported that Lebanon’s prime minister gave more than $16m to a South African bikini model with whom he was in a romantic relationship, the New York Times has reported while Associated Press (2018) reported that the estimated 383,000 people have died as a result of South Sudan’s civil war. . A Reuters correspondent has been forced to leave the Democratic Republic of Congo after failing to get his visa renewed (Reuters, 2015).  BB(2014) reported that a Liberian doctor Abraham Borbor has died despite taking an experimental anti-Ebola drug.

 Gathara (2018) stressed that Africans must also focus on the practices of local media, which is just as guilty of the sins which Western journalists are routinely accused of. This week, South Africa’s Mail & Guardian published a series of “inspiring, uplifting and positive stories from around the African continent” in a “good news” edition. While Ahmed (2015) argued that popular headlines like ‘ U.S Sends Team to Fight Africa Ebola Outbreak by NBC news. To the reader, this might sound like the whole continent is affected by the virus.

According to Aljazeera (2018) it is was deemed necessary only highlights the fact that on the continent, like everywhere else, the telling of the news is largely perceived to default to the negative. Yet here too, the problem is less that we need more good news stories than that the stories we are told are largely decontextualized. Gathara (2018) argues that there is no good and bad news; there is just the news. The false dichotomy between positive and negative stories is a reflection of the lack of the sort of storytelling which allows audiences to make sense of events within a wider universe of African experience.

Like their Western counterparts, local media engages in shorthand – it reports rather than explains. According to time Mitchell et al (2018), for example, the Rwandan genocide, which took away close to one million life, was largely ignored because of Western media reluctance to feature more than one African story. Aseka(1995)  noted that African media has been criticized for failing to market and advertise the true identity of the continent to the world. Professor Aseka who is a Fulbright scholar offered his analysis on this subject matter.  The African media, however, have failed to aggressively market an African identity and authenticity to challenge the one imposed by the West. Toussaint Nothias (2016) in his textual analysis—complemented by interviews with correspondents—finds that the claims that coverage systematically refers to “tribalism” and “darkness”, treats Africa as a country and relies predominantly on Western voices are not empirically supported. Nonetheless, it reveals that processes of conflation are at stake and that the framing of African voices is impacted by a linguistic bias linked to peculiar perceptions of African political leadership.

Concentrating solely on a single African nation is necessary because media coverage of nations has the ability to influence viewer perceptions and knowledge of those nations. The presentation of African news by Western media convinces the audiences in United States, Europe and other parts of the world that the entire continent of Africa is hopeless, poverty and disease (Ahmed Mheta , 2015).

Africa received less coverage in major U.S. newspapers as compared to other continents. In the US media, Africa has received limited news coverage in comparison to other continents (Adegbola, Mitchell and Gearhart, 2018). In their study of foreign news on US television networks, Adegbola, Mitchell et al (2018) found that Africa received less coverage between than any other region of the world.   Adegbola, Mitchell and Gearhart (2018) rallying on Sagepub journal analysis of U.S. network news coverage of international elections found that none of the elections held in Africa were covered by more than one US television network, and, overall, Africa ranked last in coverage during the sample period.

While Schraeder (1998) sagepub journal publication refers to a study of The New York Times from 1955 to 1995 found 73 percent of all reports provided negative portrayals demonstrating that ‘the media offer a consistently negative image of the African continent. One can allege that the depiction of an individual nation by the American media tends to create more suffering and deny the continent of foreign investment since coverage ruin the reputation and livelihood of that nation. But also it can be argue that the Western media are reporting events on the continent.

For example, Golan’s (2003) report published by Sagepub journal study of four US television news programs found that only 33 out of 3183 international news stories focused exclusively on African nations, which other media pundits attributed of finances.  Western media’s failure to report on issues of importance was demonstrated in 2015, when the world’s attention was focused on the terror attack that left 17 dead at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and around Paris (Zuckerman, 2015).

The attack on Hebdo was worldwide condemned and given broaden globe coverage. Malsin (2015) pinpointed that the same week of the Hebdo’s attack in France,  hundreds were killed by Boko Haram militants Nigeria, the  mass killing scarcely garnered mention in the Western media (Adegbola et al, 2018).For instance, the Arab spring that led to the dethroned of several authoritarian leaderships in North Africa was highly treated in the Western media. Other events that were given coverage in the Western media include the continues Boko Haram’s carnages in Nigeria. The Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram is waging a war against the Nigerian government and against the Christian community in Nigeria.

The forceful resignations of former president Robert Mugabe, Gambian politically short-circuited Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh and Jacob Zuma of Zimbabwe and South Africa, and indictment of the presidents of Kenya and Sudan by the International Criminal Court and the sentenced of ex-president Charles Taylor of Liberia, cannot be described as “negative” portrait of Africa by the Western media; these are all actualities of situation; the continent is also prone to frequent political instability and change of leaderships, rampant corruption and war (Front Page Africa, 2018)

Nevertheless, it is not clear if the African continent constitutes the most neglected region in foreign news; research by the Oxford Internet Institute found that between January 1979 and August 2013, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 13.4 million of stories as opposed to 60 million for North America and Europe combined, 32.6 million for Asia and 23.5 million for the Middle East and North Africa. The Oxford Internet Institute finding further goes on that Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for only 6.5 million, and Oceania 3.4 million.

Against the backdrop, if one were to add the countries from North Africa to those of sub-Saharan Africa, the continent would register nearly as many events as the Middle East and Asia. De Beer (2010) explores that the United Kingdom, United States of America, Europe television news coverage over the year 2008. He found that while Africa (10.8 percent) received significantly less coverage than Asia (25.5 percent), the Middle East (22 percent) and North America (21.4 percent), it nonetheless “received substantially more coverage than South America (1.9 percent).

Domatob (1994) found that crisis and disaster stories dominated the coverage of US news magazines, and Brookes (1995) explained that “civil war, civil conflict, aid, human rights, politics, crime and disaster account for 92% and 96% of all news about Africa in the American and British media. In the United States, the media emerged as a dominant social figure in the 19th century and since then; media has served the purpose of providing members of the public with real-time information on issues and news surrounding local, national and international events. The role of media is complex and varied. Sometimes, media is viewed positively by society, although it is considered overbearing and obnoxious other times.

It is clear fact that Africa constitutes the poorest continent in the world and is mostly negative portrait and neglected by Western media. Research by the Oxford Internet Institute found that between January 2000 and August 2017, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 9 million of stories as opposed to 67 million for North America and37 million for Europe, 14 million for Asia and 7 million for the Middle East. Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for only 7 million and Oceania 3 million.

De Beer (2010) explains that the tone of news reports about Africa in Western media is 54 percent negative and about 45 and 22 percent negative for Meddle East and Asia but that it is even more so for Central America which carried 195 percent negative. This narrative is not surprising because the idea of news more generally is crossed by a negativity bias since more often “negative” news or “bad” news gain publicity then the others; this has boost the widespread claims by several political pundits and media experts.

Whether Africa is the most neglected geographical area in Western media or not, the existing literature shows that it has consistently been one of the most neglected. exploring the British, American, French and German’s print and electronic news coverage for the recent years, De Beer (2010) made a startling revelation that Africa received 10 percent media coverage far below progress on the continent while Asia got 20 percent coverage despite the much talk about China growth, Asian Tiger and Japan miracle, and 22 percent provided for the Middle East despite of the region vicious circle conflict and insurgencies.

Oxford Internet Institute( 2017) states that eeveral publications revealed that North America (United States of America) in 2008 received 38 percent news coverage more than any region, followed by Europe 22 percent and South America 6 percent while the balance percent goes for other region and continents. For instance, 10 percent of the western media coverage of Africa, 9.5 percent focused on “negative “news either war, corruption and protest.

De Beer (2010) disclosed that Africa is predominantly portrayed negatively” by the Western media on the basis that 85 percent of the stories and articles link the continent to bad governance, insurgencies, rampant corruption and abuse of resources, undemocratic and unworkable policies, adjacent poverty, suffering, hunger, crimes, briberies, migration, war, protest and failed leaderships. Whereas the balance 15 percent of the Western media coverage of the continent directed to football-African professional footballers whose are performing abroad, democracy, natural resources, and construction.

Brookes (1995) discloses that Western media portray the African continent dark and homogenous block with social unrest, political instability, the wave of demonstrations and riots, violence, helplessness, human rights abuses and lack of democracy as its main characteristics.   According to studies, predominantly news in the African press has been “negative” or unsubstantial apparently due to huge illiteracy on the continent where the population, majority go for bad news then soft news, which help to sale newspapers and increase audiences and views for radio and television stations.

Interestingly, press freedom on the continent from the colonial period to the present has its own contradiction primarily due the African 55 countries diverse cultural, ethnicities, political and geography.  Also, the diverse collection of political and models inherited from European colonial regimes and traditional African system is having a greater effect on the practice of journalism in contemporary Africa, with the continent huge illiteracy and poverty demography playing a vast part (Oxford Internet Institute( 2006)..

The media in some countries, especially the ones in which the leaders feared the media, for example, will not exercise the same influence as those in democratic societies, the ones in which the media enjoys its responsibilities and function as a free press. Even among similar types of government, other factors, such as technology, the target audience and the message, may influence the extent of media impact on the society.  It tells about the people who are geographically divided. The real influence of the media in national development will depend on the media themselves, the societies in which they operate, and the audience they reach.

According to the  Oxford Internet Institute( 2017) survey, unlike several other Africa countries, the media in South Africa especially the print and television in the South African society are very strong, courageous and respected. The media in South Africa serves as the gatekeeper and perform the watchdog role, especially in political transparency and fight against bad governance, including corruption, abuse of state wealth, human rights and constitutional violations and autocratic. In Western Europe, for example, print, radio and television are feared by the governments and institutions due to their critical reportage and persistent in the pursue of stories to the dead end.

In the region, the media performs the watchdog role, especially in political transparency, economic accountability and fight against bad governance, including corruption, abuse of state wealth, human rights and constitutional violations, dictatorial and autocratic governance by public officials and suppression of civil liberties. For Asia and the Arab World where democracy is conditionally practiced, the media is mostly operated by the central administration, worthy class and families, and bureaucrats. The media in these regions especially China and Middle East lacks independence and “objectivity” due to constant interferences by the governments or corrupt political bureaucrats (Oxford Internet Institute,  2017)

The same goes to the media in the Russian Federation where the partly served as spokesman for the ruling regime and avoid criticism of certain key elements of the government; it is also wildly practice and visible in China and North Korea-they are the mouth-piece of government. For the Nordic Countries, South and Central America, Caribbean and Austrian, the print media are not too influential as compared to television and electronic media which are most dominant media. The media in these regions plays an important role in the day-to-day activities of the ordinary people since it serves as a source for information and hold their officials’ feet to the fire.

Besides South Africa, the print media in other African countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Burkina Faso and Senegal are vigilant in their reportage and set the public agenda and act as the gatekeeper of public issues. The internet is developing fast, mainly in urban areas, but its growth is slowed considerably by the very low level of development of telephone systems; also, few media institutions in Liberia engaged into instigative journalism and report on corruption in public sector.

But the lack of measures by the central administration to institute action against corrupt bureaucrats helped to weaken these media institution efforts(Oxford Internet Institute,  2017).  According to several publications obtained and analyzed reference to the evolution of journalism has shown that the print (newspaper) started in 1605 when the first printed weekly Relation Aller edited by Johann Carolus appeared on the newsstand. Conboy (2004) discloses that radio was invested by an Italian investor Guglielmo Marconi in 1895, while the spread of broadcasting emerged in the 1920.

In his publication: Journalism: A Critical History”, Martin Conboy explained that in 1690, Benjamin Harris published his instructive Public Occurrences the first print (Newspaper) to appear on the newsstand in the United States of American. However, only one edition was published before the print was suppressed by the government while the Hartford Courant is the oldest print in the United States.

According to Daly (2012), the Oxford Gazette which appeared on the newsstand for the first time in 1665 was the first true newspaper in Britain. In Canada, the first newspaper to appear on the newsstand is Halifax Gazette published in 1752 by John Bushell. In the book titled: A narrative History of Journalism”, Christopher Daly revealed that Vedomosti was the first newspaper printed in Russia; first edition appeared on the newsstand in 1703.

According to other publications, corroborated by Conboy and Daly, the Cape Town Gazette was the first newspaper to be published on the African continent; it was edited by two slave dealers-Alexander Walker and John Robertson ((New Dawn, 2019)..  The first Chinese newspaper is called Shanghai Wen Hui Bao. It was first published 1939; journalism in the People’s Republic of China is restricted and under the watchful “eyes” of the central governments, free speech and social media usages are also restricted in China.

According to Oxford Internet Institute (2017), the five primary 24-Hour Major News Agencies (Wire Service) are Associated Press (AP) , Agence France-Presse (AFP),  Reuters, information Telegraph Agency of Russia ITAR-TASS and Athens News Agency-Macedonian Press Agency ANA. While the influential newspapers in the world are The New York Times, Washington Post: Wall Street Journal and L’ Monde in Paris and the People’s Daily in Beijing.  Accordingly, the world’s first 24-hour leading television news networks include The RTL Group, founded on 11 May 1920 in Europe. It reaches some 120 million European TV viewers and radio listeners a day through its 24 commercial “free TV” channels and 17 radio stations in 35 countries; followed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) formed on 18 October 1922 by a group of leading wireless manufacturers including Marconi.

The list also include the Sky Television formed in November 1990 by the equal merger of Sky Television and British Satellite Broadcasting, it broadcasting has become one of the largest providers of entertainment formats in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island; Cable News Network (CNN) founded in 1980 by Robert Ted.    The Oxford Internet Institute (2017) studies showed that CNN is seen in more than 89 million American households and over 160 million homes internationally. The Fox News Channel formed October 7, 1996 is viewed in more than 17 million homes in the United States of America and 120 million homes internationally; this network is reportedly wildly viewed in the US than CNN; Al-Jazeera News Channel is wildly viewed in the Arab world.

Having discussed Western media coverage of Africa in general, let me turn my attention to Liberia where the major challenge facing journalism nowadays is that of surviving the unfavorable media policy still on the book and persistent attacks against journalists directly or indirectly by individuals with a strong connection to successive governments which rode on the leverage of the media to get to state power through democratic or indisputable elections.

In the case of African, the larger numbers of the media lacks dominance, influence and persuasion, however, there are some similarities and disparities to that of the American media; to a large extent there is wild differences due to geographical location and the advancement of the society. For example, major happenings in America are given wild publicity and take banner headlines in the Liberian press, while the American press the situation is the opposite. One of the greater tough pillars of the American media is investigative journalism and the ability to “follow-up” stories to the end; journalists are well paid and supported.

Although media nowadays enjoys smooth media landscape, emerging as a dominant social figure; it enables dialogue to take place and bridged the gap between government and the citizenry; it would be unimaginable for any Liberian security officers or officials operating under the orders of their bosses to lawlessly close down or burn newspaper offices or radio station, as was the case under previous regimes.  While 2016 was a throbbing year for Liberia media in general, the year saw the unprecedented death toll of journalists in the country in a single year, as the casualties of journalists in the hand of death as a result of the Ebola virus cannot be matched with other years. Authored by Josephus Moses Gray, Assistant Professor of International Relations and Foreign Policy Studies at the University of Liberia Graduate School of International Studies, Monrovia, Liberia.

About the author: Prof. Dr. Josephus Moses Gray, PhD, is a native born Liberian, hails from the Southeastern village of Kayken, Barclayville District in Grand Kru County. He has achieved the highest level of academic mastery in his chosen field, and work as a proven university professor with a wealth of rich credentials including a PhD in International Relations from the CEDS University located at 37 Quai de Grenelle, 75015 Paris, France. He also earned MA Degree in International Relations and BA Degree in Print Journalism from the University of Liberia on Capitol Hill, Monrovia. Dr. Gray serves as Senior Research fellow at the International Institution for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies, and also serves as a professor of International Studies at the IBB Graduate School of the University of Liberia.. He has authored three books, published two theses and a 555-page PhD dissertation; authored and published over 100 researched articles on contemporary issues in international journals and the local press. He can be reached via email:graymoses@yahoo.com or phone (+33)751060690..France

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