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 Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    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.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora