Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Academia accepts reality of citizen journalism

Members of the academia seem to have accepted the fact and role of the Citizen Journalism (CJ) at this era of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) on the continent.

Some of them who spoke at the on-going 12th Highway Africa Conference during a session on Academic included Dr. George Lugalambi of Makerere University, Dr. Dumisani Moyo of Wits University, South Africa and Dr. Abiodun Salawu of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo State, Nigeria.

In his submission at the session presided over by Prof. Fackson Banda of Rhodes University, a lecturer at the Makerere University, Dr. George Lugalambi said while discussing ‘Citizen Journalism and civic education: exploring the theoretical and practical linkages’ that Citizen journalism is a phenomenon that emerged because the citizens were not satisfied with performance of the conventional journalists.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT), he said facilitated the phenomenon.

He also said that Citizen Journalism has made citizens to be politically competent by participating in any political process and expressing their views on the societal subjects.

Equally speaking, a lecturer in the Media Studies Department at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dr. Moyo noted that the Zimbabwean election was an example of how Short Messaging Services (SMS) through mobile phones were used to disseminate information and exchange opinion as well as ideas about the election by the citizens.

According to him, Citizen Journalism provided a parallel market of information because while the government was not forthcoming with election results, the citizens alternatively provided the avenue for getting information across themselves.

Noteworthy was the use of SMS to spread humour over the lack of courage by the government to announce results.

He pointed out that the political economy of citizen journalism is that corporate entities like Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operators across the world and Africa precisely promote citizen journalism by advertising and selling their own products. “This is because people cannot be part of citizen journalism without the likes of SMS,” he said, adding that if SMS is in vogue, of course they are likely to make more money.

Affirming the position of Dr. Moyo, a Senior Lecturer at the Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo State, Nigeria, Dr. Abiodun Salawu buttressed his point by quoting Dennis McQuail the author of Theory of Mass Communications, saying that on the story of democratic participating media theory provides the theoretical framework for citizen journalism, thus serving as a veritable platform for democracy to thrive.

He stressed that the democratization of the media space and professional hegemony as well as the state control should be encouraged so as to enthrone horizontal rather than vertical means of communications.

He noted the fact that the key to applying the aforementioned theory lies in the new technologies.

He buttressed what Moyo said about using mobile phones during elections with particular references to what happened in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.

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