News / Africa

African Journalists Study US Media Freedoms

Ntaryike Divine Jr.

In September, a State Department program brought a group of African journalists to the United States to study journalistic principles and practices.  Among other things, we studied the rights involved in reporting, including freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

There were 16 of us from 15 African countries, invited by the US Government to learn more about the mechanics and evolution of journalism and especially investigative reporting. 

Over three weeks, we rubbed shoulders with top investigative reporters, visited renowned journalism schools and organizations as well as heard presentations on the far-reaching liberties enjoyed and applied by our U.S. counterparts.

Upon finishing the tour,  my colleagues and I agreed the United States’ free and independent media have been fundamental in sustaining democracy and governance. We also agreed there’s a lot to emulate for Africa, where governments often silence and crush critical news media. 

We were among some 5,000 foreign nationals from diverse walks of life to visit the US this year to as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, or ILVP.  It was launched 70 years ago to address inaccurate views of the United States around the world. 

Participants are chosen by US diplomatic missions overseas. So far, more than 200,000 foreign nationals, including current and former heads of state and government, have taken part in studying some of the rights involved in reporting.  Among those rights -- freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
 
Christopher McShane is the Africa Branch bureau chief at the State Department.  He previously worked as a foreign service officer in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain.  

"Visitors who come back from the program," he said, "understand the US better and are able to explain the US to people in their countries in an unfiltered way. It’s one thing to have an embassy spokesperson talking about the US and US policy.  It’s a different thing to have somebody from that country speak about the US from firsthand experience."

When the leadership program, IVLP, was created, it was designed not only to reshape global opinion about the United States, but also to help participants to improve professionally. 

Marilyn Saks-McMillion is a specialist in programming with the Washington, DC-based World Learning, a nonprofit private agency partnering with the State Department on the program.  She mentioned two visitors she worked with in 2005.

"One has gone on to win a Nobel Peace Prize and one is now the president of Moldova. There’re many others who’ve gone back home in their fields – whether its journalism or education or healthcare – to do wonderful things," she said.

Cynics call the IVLP a propaganda effort aimed at misleading visitors. But Saks-McMillion says such claims are baseless.

"That’s not the intention of the program," she said.  "What’s in it for the American people is having more people who understand and who may not necessarily agree with us, people with a more nuanced understanding of American people and policies and I think an understanding of the distinction between the American government and the American people."

Critics of the recent anti-American protests in the Islamic world would agree with her. The demonstrations were ignited by the circulation on the Internet of a provocative video entitled “Innocence of Muslims.” The short film, which mocks Islam, was not produced by the US government, but by a private citizen living in California. 

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, including unpopular opinions and criticism of religion.  In a speech in September at a meeting of the UN General Assembly, President Obama said the video was repugnant, but that it did not excuse the killing of Innocents or an attack on an embassy.

Nevertheless, the short film led to attacks on foreign diplomatic missions and to the death in Libya of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

According to US officials, the attacks have emphasized the need for a better understanding of the United States.

"That’s true," she said. "I think if you keep in mind that only 5,000 people a year come on the program from all over the world, their role as people who can help explain the US to people back in their countries is really quite small especially when you have other voices locally that may be much louder and more frequent."

"Obviously, there’re great challenges to overcome.  Certainly, there’s a long way to go.  But the IVLP is a force in making people understand the US better."

The 16 African participants in the program in August agree that it’s a tool for helping people understand the United States -- and that will help them become better journalists.

Listen to report on Africa press trip to the US
Listen to report on Africa press trip to the USi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: DeAnna DeBry from: Salt Lake City Utah
November 21, 2012 12:58 PM
My husband and I have been involved with the ILVP for 20 years now as home hospitality hosts. We have had people from all over the world visit our city to learn more about their particular specialities -- education, government, NGOs, diversity -- and we feel it an honor to meet people who want to make their countries better. Cynics may call this 'propaganda' but I see it as a way to break down artificial barriers between nations caused by lies, distortions and hearsay. For the 3 weeks the visitors are in the US, they are given many opportunities to see that a lot of things work in our country, but some things don't. They are free to pick and choose from each lecture, each tour, each meeting. They can then go back to their countries and implement what they think will work for them. This is real diplomacy in action.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid