It is frustrating, even infuriating, to read stories of African events distorted by fellow Africans. This is especially so in the media. It is perhaps understandable, though not acceptable, when others do it. But surely not our own. In this respect, the African media is as guilty as foreigners. And yet we continue to cry that outsiders distort our stories and tell them as it suits them. This is true, of course. But also true is that Africans are complicit in this. We have allowed others to tell our stories in their own fashion for their own interests. And worse, we repeat the same stories as told by others and so approve them as true. And so perhaps the biggest blame should go to us for abdicating our responsibility and surrendering our rights to outsiders. We cannot plead that we know not what they or we do. We do. And for this, Africans will be judged harshly for they should know better. Nor can we blame outsiders for doing what is good for them. They have an agenda and so create a narrative and invent facts or twist existing ones to fit into it. To illustrate, let us take the example of media reporting on the ongoing fighting in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or the long-standing insecurity there. None of the media houses in East Africa carries their own news stories on the conflict. They depend on news reports by the big foreign news agencies like AFP, AP, and Reuters, and occasionally, Xinhua, or the big networks such as the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, and others. We know what that means and what we will almost certainly get when they report on African conflicts. Sensational, alarmist headlines. A lot of bloodletting, mass rape and other barbaric acts in keeping with the supposed savagery of the natives. Not much about the causes or issues in the conflict. That would be too reasonable, give the conflict a purpose and make the protagonists intelligent beings. The aim is to shock and also to disparage, not necessarily to inform or present the reality as it is. And then our media carry these stories wholesale, and their audiences believe them. Yet Goma, from where most of these reports are filed, is not very far from Kampala or Nairobi where most of the regional media is based. They could easily send a reporter there or get a local correspondent with knowledge of the local terrain, complexities and sensibilities, and get the news themselves. But they don’t. It cannot be a question of resources or personnel. Mega media organisations like the Nation Media Group (NMG) that owns news publications and radio and television networks across the region cannot surely plead lack of means. They have all that is required to cover the region. It can only be the result of several things. Lack of will, for instance, or laziness, and so are prepared to accept and use a ready-made story from the big news agencies. The accuracy of the reports is never questioned. It is taken for granted because it comes from such agencies. Or they do not give the events their due importance because they are remote, not immediate, and do not concern them directly. Whatever the reason, the damage all this does is incalculable. Reading the news or commentary pages of east African newspapers or listening to current affairs talk shows featuring supposed experts, one comes across a lot of ignorance about events only a stone’s throw away. They are uninformed or misinformed even about the most basic issues. Some do not even know the geography of the area and have no idea about its history, recent or remote. Not a clue about the issues involved. When they appear to be informed, they only repeat the line of the big western media. These become the truth standard. They have bought wholesale the narrative. And it is really a set of simplified and repeated talking points, easy to remember and repeat, with a clear division between good and evil and attendant villains and victims. And so the conflict in DRC is simply fuelled by the scramble to lay hands on its minerals. Sometimes one gets the impression that some of the media want their countries in on the act. The biggest problem and cause of insecurity is the M23 whom they accuse of massacre of civilians, rape, looting and other crimes. No mention of the presence of genocidaires who fled Rwanda and were warmly received by Congolese authorities and are now integrated into their forces in the ongoing fighting. The FDLR and the other armed groups, the actual cause of insecurity are conveniently omitted. Then, of course, you must have someone to blame, a villain stirring up all the trouble in eastern DRC. And for the last two decades or so, and without evidence, that has been Rwanda. No mention of the weak and absent state, whose singular capability seems to be to incite violence in the area and then cry foul. It is even worse on social media. The amount of ignorance, violent and coarse language, the level of prejudice and intolerance is simply staggering. Voices of extremism drown out those of reason. They act like a lynch mob. Such extremism comes from consuming, without filtering, news reports and opinions in various media and pronouncements by political, civic and religious leaders, and activists of every stripe. Our media has the duty to report accurately on events in the region. In ignoring this duty, they are equally guilty in misrepresenting reality and perhaps even fuelling conflict.