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Africa needs value-based journalism

afrol News, 20 February - A three-month survey has revealed that Africa needs more responsible, ethical and value-based journalism to play a crucial role in enhancing freedom of the press.

Conducted by Dr Prem Lal Joshi, Professor at the University of Bahrain, the global online survey, which took place between November and January, sampled the opinions of 23 African journalists from South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, The Gambia, Sudan, and Mauritius.

Like the previous survey results, the current survey also revealed African journalist's adherence to truth and accuracy. More than 95% of the respondents said they adhere to truth and accuracy.

Over 90% of the respondents adhere to objectivity, independence, and accountability. The journalists rated fairness and verification of facts as important elements of journalism.

"Perhaps, these findings are most basic values taught to all journalists, in academic schools or otherwise," Dr Joshi said.

While perceptions differ on public interest, loyalty and aggressiveness were rated lowest in the value hierarchy.

However, 84% of respondents said they respect privacy of other people, compared to 77.8% on an overall basis.

Dr Joshi said despite its size, the survey's findings reflect that conventional ethical values are adhered to a greater extent by journalists in the age of globalisation.

Perceptions also differ on and view stories. A little over 71% confirmed the existence of sensationalisation of newspaper stories compared to the overall 70.8%. About 60.8% of them strongly agreed, while 26.1% remained neutral.

Previous surveys revealed that sensationalism could be produced in the form of "emotive language, exaggeration, and shallow research, selective emphasis over dramatization, of facts and human situation, bloated headlines, melodramatic that overstates the facts or circumstance“.

African journalists' inability to write competently on complex issues gives birth to sensational story.

They are blamed for the wholesale adoption of Western news values that emphasise the sensationally negative aspects in an attempt to grab readers' attention.

"Normally, an article on corruption by nature are sensational and make a good buy for newspaper," one respondent concurred.

Another argued, saying, "the cultural values here in his country are not so divergent yet are held very passionately by sections other than ethnic groupings. It is, therefore, important that even reporting such passion does not inadvertently or otherwise led to conflict that disrupts public peace and co-existence."

Newspapers are beginning to "force the hand" of readers by supplying them with sensational news otherwise would turn to sophisticated and alternative means of sourcing news.

“Sensationalizing of stories is not really good for news because those who have the largest budgets put their stories even if they are right or wrong. A good positive story should not require that much pushing... good journalism is good journalism, but the way things have gone ... not correct," a South African journalist frankly put across.

Some respondents argued that "in as much as we would like to sensationalize stories other core values [national security, reliability and authoritativeness of the information] will always come into play."

Several factors are hindering value-based journalism among newspaper journalists in Africa. They include legal barriers, circulation difficulties, access to information, government control, inadequate training and poor internet connectivity.

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