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 Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid