As the media fraternity in Rwanda was coming to terms with a scandalous corruption affair that has entangled some two journalists and sucked in names of private citizens, a young man far away from Rwanda was celebrating a career path he embarked on a couple of years ago.
This is all because somebody had recognized his work.
Anas Aremeyaw Anas may not ring a bell in many people’s minds in Rwanda or even the East African region. But many started wondering who he is when Obama spoke in Ghana. Obama paid tribute to the young man.
One of the recent achievements he talked about was the unearthing of a human-sex trafficking ring operating from Accra, Ghana.
Anas, is reported to being involved in exposing major corruption cases in Ghana.
He in effect provides an example and a good one at that to many journalists who may want to make a quick buck through the wrong means as evidenced by the case of Niyonambaza and group.
The moral is that you do not have to take the wrong path of corruption as you practice journalism in order to get better-off.
Anas, is a young man still in his mid twenties. He has chosen to confront powerful people running criminal syndicates.
As he said after hearing his name in Obama’s speech, not even all the awards both local and international that he has won, can compare to hearing Obama pay tribute to him.
I want to argue that indeed by mentioning his name, the American President helped to encourage many in the media fraternity to take up challenges which they would otherwise not have taken up.
At least they get to realizes that their work, when well researched and hence based on the truth, is worth it.
The symbolism of mentioning one hitherto not so famous young journalist by the most powerful man in the world is very important to many young journalism practitioners.
Some have argued that Obama’s speech was of little or no importance to Africa. That it is not any different from other western leaders talk about Africa, save for the fact that he is less diplomatic with African leaders because he can not be accused of racism.
This is a line that journalist Andrew Mwenda seeks to advance about Obama’s speech.
Indeed in an article published on www.foreignpolicy.com, Mwenda describes Obama’s speech as “trash talk” saying that Obama was simply giving lectures and this is not what Africa wants.
Well that true and many arguments do stand in his (Mwendas) analysis.Indeed Africa does not need lectures.
But such simple gestures as going out of the way to pay tribute to independent/investigative journalists and other crusaders,(small people) who are mainly frowned upon by African ruling elites, does really help in emboldening many, who would have otherwise found it a thankless venture to fight ills in society.
Even the fact that something is being said or done by Obama makes it more significant and important. At least in the eyes of some people!
All these happenings-recognition of Anas and the exposure of rotten apples in media in our midst- tell two somewhat different yet connected stories.
That private/independent and sometimes poorly facilitated media organizations or practitioners can be agents of destruction on one hand and or agents of change-change for the better on the other.
They may be agents of destruction because with lack of good facilitation, there in many cases is temptation by practitioners to enter into dubious transactions, including blackmail and extortion.
Or worse still, writing stories, which are not true, but aimed at injuring some individuals in case their political/business/ social rivals pay for such to be published.
On the other hand, independent/private journalists (mainly alternative media), can play a positive role in society, because they are in most cases not owned by big business or political interests that may want to keep some stories out of public view because of political or business interests.
However, because of a poor market as result of a poor reading culture in most developing countries, alternative media does not last.
This is because they lack advertizing revenues from big business which always prefer mainstream media. However, it’s great to learn that the likes of Anas Aremeyaw Anas have stood out. It’s not all gloom after all.