Activity 1.3 - Why the media? Identifying the benefits

1 - Introduction

Why the media?

  • Across the Nile Basin, most people rely on the media as their main source of information.
  • The media reach large numbers of people with information within a short time.
  • Issues that are published in the media influence public opinion.
  • Media coverage influences policy decisions and creates "imagined communities".

Media landscape in the sub-region

The media landscape varies from country to country but the following trend is generally true of the sub-region:

  • A wave of privatisation and liberalisation since the 1990s has led to proliferation of media platforms. This has created competition, which puts editors under pressure to publish information that is interesting, relatable and easy to understand.
  • Whereas private news channels outnumber state media in the region, they too are subjected to varying degrees of government control. Moreover, their main source of information is the Government even when they are private.
  • The internet has enabled creation of online news organisations, blogs and vibrant social media discussions. These have more freedom than the traditional news channels but they sometimes exercise self-censorship especially when the publishers live within the target countries. Another challenge is that the internet carries plenty of unverified information, which makes it difficult for readers to know which online source to trust.
  • Government officials are subjected strict rules on releasing the information under their control.
  • Compared with Government officials, researchers in higher institutions of learning have more freedom to express themselves though they often exercise self-censorship for fear of repercussions.