The State and the Media: surveillance and censorship in Africa's pasts and presents
Date and Start Time 30 June, 2017 at 09:00
This panel proposes to explore the daily making of journalistic languages and activities by paying attention to what they owe to the routine work of the State; and to analyse how the media strengthens the State's capacities in reaching, educating, scaring, monitoring, or repressing its citizens.
This panel proposes to explore the interplay between State and media in unorthodox ways, beyond any normative expectations, along two main axis:
1- It first encourages to explore the daily making of journalistic languages and activities by paying attention to what they owe to the routine work of the State: through leaks, repression and violence, but also sociabilities and friendships. Beyond simplistic antagonisms, papers will decipher the thick negotiations that lead to the publication, or not, of a story without, however, falling into political determinism: it should thus include the role of advertisement, ownership, material constraints and possibilities, journalists' work routines. The panel welcomes papers with data on the daily interactions between media and State agents (security services, civil servants, politicians or the judiciary); the daily work of censors and the way media staff resist, accompany or accommodate them; the common socialisations and sociabilities between journalists and rulers.
2- The second axis will be dedicated to the exploration of how the media strengthens the State's administrative capacities in reaching, educating, scaring, monitoring, or repressing its citizens, for instance by using radio to map shortcomings in public service delivery, by encouraging the denunciation of undeserving citizens, or by identifying protestors through press pictures or TV footage. It is important to note that this axis will include the use of new communication technologies but will not be restricted to Africa's presents. The panel encourages papers that will explore the use of the press, TV and radio in Africa's colonial and postcolonial pasts.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
La presse au service de la Révolution au Burkina Faso (1980-1987)
Nous entendons examiner dans cette communication le processus et les stratégies de constitution d’un journalisme révolutionnaire au Burkina Faso, ses objectifs de mobilisation politique et, en conséquence, les relations qui vont s’instaurer entre les journalistes et le champ politique.
Quoique peu étudié, l'investissement des médias fut pour les dirigeants révolutionnaires burkinabè un moyen important de « conscientisation » et de mobilisation des « masses laborieuses » contre « l'impérialisme » et ses « valets locaux ». Dans l'intervalle de temps défini (1980-1987), nous examinerons dans un premier axe les nouveaux repères de la pratique journalistique révolutionnaire, relativement à celle définie comme « bourgeoise et réactionnaire », ainsi que les transformations qui s'opèrent dans la relation des journalistes au champ politique (formes d'engagement politique, types de liens entre journalistes et acteurs politiques). Un second axe sera consacré à l'analyse des rapports entres les modes de traitement de l'information, et les objectifs d'éducation de la « masse populaire », de définition des « amis et des ennemis de la révolution » et donc d'institution d'un principe de vision et de division de la société burkinabé, observables dans la modification du discours journalistique.
Nos matériaux seront à la fois des données de première main (entretiens, comptes rendus de réunions ou de conférence de rédaction, programmes de télévision, corpus de journaux et de séquences audio-visuelles), et des données de seconde main (écrits des journalistes sur leurs expériences de la période révolutionnaire).
Negotiating the Public Sphere: Resistance and Compliance in Benin's Official Press during the Democratic Renewal
The role of the private press during the African transitions at the turn of the 1990s has been abundantly commented, neglecting the official press. This manichean and holistic view of the State press needs to be reassessed in order to reveal the nuanced reality in our Beninese case.
Drawing on Michel de Certeau's distinction between « strategy » and « tactics » my analysis aims to disrupt the stereotypes about the official press in Africa during the political transitions at the turn of the 1990s.
In Benin, under the declining regime of Mathieu Kérékou, the journalists of the official newspaper are engaged in a situation that cultivates ambivalence. As the regime moves towards the freedom of the press, acknowledging the creation of private newspapers and encouraging the critics, the workers of the press continue to suffer threats and intimidations.
That is why some journalists start to develop « tactics of escapism » that consist of exercising their right of expression and right of withdrawal by circumventing censorship and subtly distilling criticism into their daily articles while they carry on with their perceived role of the regime's griot. At the same time, the newspaper - and the journalistic field - becomes the stage where various factions of the State settle their grievances. Finally, everything works as if the official newspaper were encrypted in an insider's language where everyone knows what and how to read in order to catch up with internal rivalries.
This paper tries to nuance both analyzes that pours into the heroic illusion of the journalist fighting against the dantesque machine of the State, as well as the vision of presenting the State as a monolithic and panoptic block.
The State in Community Radio Station Operations: The case of Kangema FM
Kangema FM, a community-run, parastatal-funded radio station, aims to meet both community information needs and State-set goals. The station’s organisational structures, work routines and content are impacted by the personal and institutional relationships between the radio and the State.
Kangema FM is a Kenyan community radio station started by the Kenya Meteorological Department in 2008. Its stated goal is to provide the surrounding community with weather information and to warn them about possible weather-related disasters in the area, chiefly mudslides. Apart from weather information, the station operates as a 'regular' community radio station, providing news and entertainment. The station's staff - community journalists - are community members who have undergone journalistic training. Although the station seeks to operate as a non-partisan community media institution, the impact of its ownership by a State parastatal is apparent in its organizational structures and the daily work routines of the journalists. Relationships - both personal and institutional - with local leaders also have an impact on the operations and content of the station, and funding restrictions in the Kenyan community media legislation determine the station's engagement with advertisers and other funding sources. On the other hand, community expectations of the station to serve their information needs are clear. Consequently, both the station management and the journalists are constantly negotiating ways of meeting both State requirements and community expectations, while upholding the institution's credibility as a media institution. Through examining Kangema FM's organisational structures, work routines and the factors that impact on them, this paper seeks to highlight the dynamic nature of the personal and institutional relationships between the radio station and the other players, and these relationships' impact on the eventual output of the station.
Conviviality or Consensus? 'Proximity Radio' and the Staging of Depoliticised Diversity in Abidjan, 2014-2015
I critically address efforts to depoliticise ethnic diversity in post-conflict Abidjan. I argue that the reconciliation discourse carried by radio stations problematically frames the local as the natural place for diversity management, and as a site of consensus outside of politics and the state.
Following the post-electoral violence that rocked Côte d'Ivoire in 2011, radios de proximité in Abidjan engaged in re-building a positive sense of local, ethnic diversity. Their position in this process is complicated. Trust in media is eroded, and struggles over ethno-political territory undermined "the local" as a site of public participation. Furthermore, regulations prevent stations from producing accounts of the crisis that name political actors. Yet stations still have to promote a 'reconciled' local diversity. How? And to what effect?
I take the example of neighbourhood-based 'public shows' (émissions publiques) held in the municipal districts of Abobo and Yopougon between March and October 2015. These shows produced an account of the crisis that was abstract and consensual, emphasising not specific histories but a general narrative of disorder turned into order. They relegated the management of diversity to a timeless cosmopolitanism, symbolised in its most playful aspect by jeux d'alliance and games based around African languages.
In this discourse, the local is promoted as a primordial site of conviviality. Neighbourhoods are responsible for turning diversity into consensus, a pre-condition for electoral participation. Crucially, the local is an autonomous realm of diversity management, radically distinct from the state. I conclude by showing that this reading contradicts the history of ethnicity in Côte d'Ivoire and ordinary people's experience of the relations between locality, diversity and power. I point out the dangers in equating local diversity with consensus, and ask how the urban local might be implicated in an alternative process to depoliticisation.
Ideas, Institutions and Interests: Media, Politics and the State in Ethiopia
Placing political ideology, and the role of leadership and government communication, at the centre of analysis, this paper explores the relationship between the state, journalists and social media users in contemporary Ethiopia.
This paper explores the development and evolution of government communication in Ethiopia. It places ideas at the centre, arguing that the relationship between the state and media, or the development of media systems more generally, can only be understood in relation to a country's broader political project, which in the case of Ethiopia is 'revolutionary democracy' or the 'developmental democratic state'. The paper traces the approach the EPRDF adopted towards propaganda during the struggle and how this affected the way in which it approached its relationship with media institutions (primarily state media) and private media. It critically examines the failed process of reconciliation, often reflecting the views of those from the previous regime, and the extent to which the private media became a vehicle for challenging the fundamentals of the nationbuilding project and tenants of the EPRDF's political ideology. I conclude by focusing on the 2015 elections and the extent to which they have become a 'non-event' in the media, including social media. While the 2005 elections had a comparatively vibrant media environment that contributed to the contentious elections, the EPRDF has laboured over the past 10 years to consolidate power through implementing some of their more ambitious ideas of revolutionary democracy, including intensive media restrictions and 'political education' targeting journalists and bloggers. While challenging the effectiveness of such an approach, arguing that fundamental state fragilities remain, this paper seeks to explain how and in what cases journalists (and citizens more broadly) have both absorbed and resisted intensive state interventions.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.