Friday, June 01, 2007

Germany: Saving the Africa Agenda at the G8 Summit 2007 in Heiligendamm

Frontpage image from BILD Zeitung (newspaper) in Germany, June 01, 2007

Dateline Berlin - 01.06.07
German press sends shockwaves through the Bundesrepublik on Schwarze Freitag (Black Friday)

Yesterday I received this really nice request to help spread the word on the upcoming TED Global 2007 Conference in Arusha, Tanzania from a young lady whose ancestors hail from Danzig (Gdansk) Poland. The TED Conference which will be attended by a number of fellow blog authors who write about Africa and by other people that I greatly admire is a news event that I intended to cover thoroughly next week along with the upcoming G8 Summit 2007 at Heiligendamm in Germany. Jennifer Brea, a Princeton University graduate, freelance journalist, and globetrotting author of the Africabeat blog has done a very good writeup on the TED Global Conference in Arusha. I’ll write more about TED and the TED TALK featuring the former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaking before an audience at the TED Conference in Monterey, CA in March in my next post of this series.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Federal President Horst Köhler are the most powerful political figures in Germany who have demonstrated in both words and deeds that they are serious about engaging the people of sub-Saharan Africa. The German Ministry for Aid and Development boss Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul has also worked hard to help African governments deal with problems like HIV/AIDS and hunger and debt relief and poverty reduction. See the German World Bank Forum and Africa Partnership Forum 2007 in Berlin for more info on what the German government is doing in Africa. I haven’t been convinced for more than two decades that respect for black Africans and a strong will to engage with sub-Saharan Africans to help solve problems and foster more balanced and fair trade with Europe is a priority for the German public. We shall see what happens after this G8 Summit under the leadership of Angela Merkel vs. the government of German Chancellor Gerhard (Blowhard) Schroeder (see Germany’s promises made at the G8 Summit 2005 in Gleneagles, Scotland).

I awoke this morning to the equivalent of a tsunami of news coverage from leading German press and media about Africa and Germany’s role in promoting Chancellor Merkel’s Africa Agenda at the upcoming G8 Summit in Heiligendamm. The first shock images and banner headlines to greet 10’s of millions of Germans today and the Ausländer (foreigners) who live here were from Germany’s leading tabloid newspaper BILD (a disgusting tabloid rag, Germany’s leading newspaper in readership). Here is a link to BILD’s website frontpage.

Africans living in Germany and in the diaspora around the world will note that these are exactly the type of images and biased reporting about the suffering, poor, diseased, corrupt, hopeless continent that African journalists and writers have been complaining about (loudly) for years. It is exactly the type of lead-in to a major story about Africa that Africans have come to hate___ no matter how good the intentions of the publishers and journalists and stars and politicians who have contributed to BILD for this issue. And to make things worse, Africa Savior Sir Bob Geldof is right at the center of this circus acting as BILD editor-in-chief for a day and conducting an interview with German Chancellor Angela Merkel titled “Frau Kanzlerin, weinen Sie fur Afrika? (Translation: Mrs. Chancellor, do you cry for Africa?) BILD has hailed this special issue of their newspaper as “Historic” but I think that it is an “historic blunder” and a disgrace to the journalism profession worldwide. BILD has screwed-up on its coverage of Africa before the start of the G8 Summit at Heiligendamm with the full support of some of Germany’s and the world’s most prominent people. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that much of it was done with good intentions but what would the people of Africa think about this type of new coverage? (Hint… that’s your cue to speak-up Africa).

Fortunately for Chancellor Merkel and President Köhler much of the international community will remain largely ignorant of this because they don’t read and/or understand the German language. BILD gets away with total BS again, just as they did with their coverage of the rebel assault on Monrovia in 2003 when their newspaper front page was covered with a huge photo of an African child soldier brandishing the severed head of one of his victims. They did receive a verbal reprimand for such racist, biased coverage of the bloody conflict in Liberia from the German Press Association… and that was it. Today’s coverage of Afrika at BILD can be seen as an… improvement.

Let’s move on to other German press and broadcast media coverage of Africa before the G8 Summit. The Frankfurter Rundschau, a national newspaper published in Germany’s financial capital (Frankfurt am Main – aka Mainhatten) with a much smaller readership than BILD, takes a more mature and intelligent approach to Africa coverage before and during the G8 Summit 2007. The Frankfurter Rundschau Editor-in-Chief Uwe Vorkötter writes in an editiorial for the newspaper’s June 2007 special issue for Afrika:

Liebe Leserin, lieber Leser,

Afrika? Der Kontinent, der von Armut und Aids beherrscht wird. Der Kontinent ohne Zukunft. Der Kontinent, dem die G8-Regierungschefs in der nächsten Woche wieder Hilfe versprechen - und ihr Versprechen gleich wieder vergessen. Afrika, ein hoffnungsloser Fall?

Das stimmt so nicht. Nicht mehr. "Hier spricht Afrika" lautet das Motto unserer heutigen Ausgabe. Sie enthält nicht nur das "normale" Programm, das Sie täglich von uns erwarten. Wir schreiben zusätzlich über die Probleme Afrikas, aber auch über seine Erfolge. Wir lassen Afrikaner zu Wort kommen - Politiker, Stars und einfache Leute aus allen 48 Staaten südlich der Sahara. Wir porträtieren die erfolgreiche Präsidentin Liberias, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Wir reden mit Miss Nigeria über schwarze und weiße Schönheitsideale. Wir sprechen auch mit den Popstars Bono und Herbert Grönemeyer, deren Einsatz für Afrika kein PR-Gag ist, sondern ernsthaftes Engagement. Und den prominentesten Text der Zeitung, den Leitartikel, stellen wir einem Mann zur Verfügung, dessen Einsatz für Afrika in der internationalen Politik vorbildlich ist: Horst Köhler, Bundespräsident. Er hat unsere Einladung spontan angenommen - wir bedanken uns.

Ich lade Sie ein zu einer journalistischen Reise auf einen faszinierenden Kontinent. Lesen Sie, was unsere Reporter und Korrespondenten über ihr Afrika zu berichten haben, lassen Sie sich fesseln von eindrucksvollen Bildern.

Herzliche Grüße
Ihr Uwe Vorkötter

My (rush) translation of the editor’s introduction to “Hier Spricht Afrika”:

“Africa? The continent being conquered by HIV-AIDS and poverty. The continent without a future. The continent that the G8 bosses during this coming week will promise to help – and then soon afterwards forget their promises. Africa, a hopeless case?

That’s not correct. Not anymore. “Hier spricht Afrika” (Africa speaks out) is the motto of our special edition today. It contains not only the “normal” program that you await from us everyday. We are writing additionally today over the problems of Africa but also about her successes. We are allowing Africans to speak out – politicians, stars and ordinary people from all 40 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. We are portraying the successful President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. We speak with Miss Nigeria about black and white beauty idols. We also speak with pop stars Bono and Herbert Grönemeyer, whose campaigns on behalf of Africa (and Africans) is no PR stunt but is a serious engagement. And the most prominent text of the newspaper, the Leitartikel (feature article), places a man at your disposal whose campaign for Africa in the international political world is an example: Horst Köhler, the Federal President of Germany. He accepted our invitation spontaneously, and we thank him for this.

I invite you to a journalistic voyage on a fascinating continent. Read what our reporters and correspondents have reported about Africa and be captivated by impressive photos and images.

With warmest regards,
Your Uwe Vorkötter (Editor-in-Chief)

End of excerpt from the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper online June 01, 2006

Coming Next: The view from TED in Arusha, Tanzania and more on German press and media coverage of the G8 Summit 2007 Africa Agenda. Auf Wiedersehen und bis bald.

P.S. I wasn’t too hard on Geldoof & the BILD folks, was I? Really? Well, damn I’m really sorry.

Related articles and additional online resources

BILD Zeitung Online (Germany’s most popular daily tabloid newspaper)
Note: BILD headlines have been translated to English - all articles are “auf Deutsch”
BILD frontpage for June 01, 2007 (changes hourly and daily, sorry)
30,000 People Die Every Day in Africa from Hunger (special Afrika issue lead story)
The Angel of Ethiopia is a German Nurse
Bob Geldorf: His Day as BILD Chief-Editor
Bono: Why I fight for Africa and what YOU can do to help
This is how we can help Africa’s farmers by Michael Otto (CEO of Otto Group)

BILD Blog (a watchdog blog about the German “boulevard magazine” BILD)
Bild veradelt Bild-Chefredakteur (a piece about Geldorf - nothing on Afrika yet)

Washington Post
Geldof puts Africa on front page (BILD Afrika edition), 06/01/0

Africa Media
World’s most famous African: Bono or Madonna?

Frankfurter Rundschau Zeitung
Frankfurter Rundschau frontpage
Afrika Spezial: Hier Spricht Afrika
(Africa Special Issue - Here speaks Africa!/ Africa speaks up!)
Ma Ellen” ist der Boss
(feature article on Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf)

Spiegel International (English version of popular German magazine)
The Power of Money: Can Africa be Saved by Private Aid?

Official website of the Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel (German, English)
Spiegel special 2005 issue “The Germans” – Germany’s next Chancellor Angela Merkel
TIME Magazine 2006 profile of Angela Merkel

Official website of the Federal President of Germany Horst Köhler (German, English)

Official website of the German Minister for Development and Cooperation Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (German only)

Official website of the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (German, English)

World Bank Forum and Africa Partnership Forum in Berlin, May 21-23, 2007

Official website of the G8 Summit 2007 at Heiligendamm, Germany
Official website of the G8 Summit 2006 at St. Petersburg, Russia
Official website of the G8 Summit 2005 at Gleneagles, Scotland

TED: Ideas worth spreading
TED Global 2007 Conferences: Africa – The Next Chapter
Africabeat: TED Global Africa: The Next Chapter

Related articles from Jewels in the Jungle and the Atlantic Review
Black History in Europe? An Introduction to the Invisible Ones
Black History Month 2007 in Europe: Updates
Black History in Month in Europe 2007: Amo’s Ghost
Black History Month 2007 in Germany at the Atlantic Review
Black History in Germany and Europe: An African-German educator speaks out (Deutsch)
Black History in Germany and Europe: An African-German educator speaks out (English)
African History in Europe: Blacks in the Renaissance Part I

African History in Europe: Blacks in the Renaissance Part II

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imnakoya said...

It is interesting the extent of ignorance these African-saviors and journalists can muster!

Although Africa may be down, but with this type of attitude, who needs help? Ngozi Iweala said it all in that TED video presentation, get it and post it for your readers and folks back in Germany, maybe they will see clearer.

Michael Fisher said...

Was kannst'e denn vom Axel Springer Verlag und seiner Bild "Zeitung" auch anderes erwarten.

Black River Eagle said...

Imnakoya - I wouldn't think that Bono and Geldorf are ignorant of issues and problems faced by people on the African continent. In fact they are far from it (ignorance). What annoys me here is how could they allow their star status and good name in re: to support for aid and development in Africa be used in this way by a publication like BILD. Their ignorance is of Germany and the news and media scene here and how best to select a news network and press publication to get the word out. That goes for the rest of the "stars" and world figures (including Nelson Mandela) who allowed their names and statements to be used in this issue of BILD. Hell, maybe everybody involved is O.K. with this type of headline and image of black Africans.

What I did do in this post to counterbalance the damage that BILD has done with the release of that newspaper edition is try to show the wealth of information provided by the German government's Office of the Chancellor and Office of the Federal President and the Development Ministry (BMZ). I also highlighted the much more serious journalism available at the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper and Spiegel International magazine (English version of Germany's Der Spiegel).

I plan to stay on top of the German media coverage of the G8 Summit 2007 throughout next week. The speech by Ngozi Iweala at TED Talk is in the pipeline as well.

Michael -
Are we brushing up on our German language skills before a German-speaking audience? Excellent! While you are at it read those articles I pointed to at the Frankfurter Rundschau... you can skip the BILD stuff except for the interview with Merkel.

One should also point out that the Axel Springer Verlag based in Hamburg is one of Europe's largest and richest publishers. They publish and distribute newspapers, magazines, and other media all over Europe. Axel Springer AG has over 10,000 employees and earns approximately Euro 1 billion per year in revenues. BILD is not only one of their most succesful publications (in terms of revenue generated) but is also the largest boulevard newspaper in Europe (readership). The editors and reporters at BILD obviously give a lot of thought to what they publish, how they publish, and what impact it will have on their readers in Germany and abroad. This "historical issue" on Africa and the G8 Summit is the result of all that brainpower and business knowhow. Go figure...

What I cannot understand is how can you have a publication like BILD in your news stable right alongside respectable newspapers such as Germany's Die Welt, the Hamburger Abendblatt, and the Berliner Morgenpost? I guess at the end of the day at Axel Springer Verlag it's all about the money you earn for your stockholders and not about the quality and integrity of news coverage you provide to your readers... or who you harm in the process.

Gillian said...

Yes, it's important to keep telling the stories behind the stereotypes.

My blog does this through its focus on one of the best development projects in Africa - the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania. I range across broad issues of poverty and development and give news about this powerful project.

Check it out --

Melissa said...

Thanks for staying on top of this -- we don't hear that much on the German take on Africa.

Editor for the day indeed. First Bono (last year with the UK's Independent), now Sir "Do you cry for Africa" Geldof. How can he continue to have any credibility when he asks such questions?

-- Melissa

Black River Eagle said...

Thanks for stopping by Melissa (fine author of 'Africa Media' blog) to check-up on the "Schwarzeausblick von Deutschland" re: the G8 Summit 2007 at Heiligendamm. Stay tuned for more this week including contributions from our Black History in Europe & Germany crew (see Feb/Mar 2007 post archives).

Readers of Jewels will also be interested in a parallel post on the BILD Afrikaspezial issue of June 1st posted to the PANOS-London group blog AfricaVox 2007. This blog features the work of some of sub-Saharan Africa's top journalists and editors who are covering the G8 Summit in Germany. AfricaVox 2007 is a must read for anyone who is seriously interested in Africa from an African viewpoint.

Checkout the June 1st post by Richard M. Kavuma, senior reporter with Uganda's Weekly Observer newspaper, titled "Why Geldorf's image of a rotting Africa is OK by me". I've already "weighed-in" on his piece and encourage others to do the same. Here is the URL:

AfricaVox 2007: African Voices at the G8