Monday, July 30, 2007

Honoring Africa's Best - The CNN/Multichoice African Journalist Awards 2007

Richard M. Kavuma, a 32-year old senior writer for Uganda’s The Weekly Observer is not a household name in the news business, but he should be. I first came into contact with Richard during the run-up to the 2007 G8 Summit at Heiligendamm, Germany. The London based Panos Institute sponsored a crew of 9 journalists and media professionals from the African continent for the AfricaVox 2007 project to cover this year’s G8 Summit and Richard Kavuma was among these professionals here in Germany. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Richard in-person; we met via the comments section of his posts to the AfricaVox 2007 blog.

I had quite a bit of fun both welcoming all these fine journalists to the 2007 G8 Summit in Germany and to the rough & tumble world of the blogosphere and my first comment on the AfricaVox 2007 blog was a scorcher in response to Richard’s article about the June 1st frontpage spread on Afrika by Germany’s Bild Zeitung. I had already composed and published a scathing article about the Bild Zeitung Afrika Spezialausgabe before discovering Richard’s piece at AfricaVox.

Since then poor Sir Bob Geldorf and his sidekick Bono have been severely criticized online in numerous opinion editorials and blog posts, but my angle on the story was the overtly negative and stereotypical depiction of helpless, starving, suffering, and clueless Africans in one of Germany’s top selling newspapers (circulation in print over 1 million copies with revenues approximately at Euro 1 billion annually). Geldorf serving as ‘guest editor-in-chief for a day’ at BILD for this despicable characterization of Africa was just a secondary issue for me. Sir Bob should have known better and I’ll bet you he gets the message on his failures at BILD and other media stunts now. Africans can speak very well for themselves in the international media and elsewhere without Geldorf’s public profanity and antics, thank you very much.

Fast forward to July 23, 2007

Tucked away in the corner (Africa news section) of the new website was an article about the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the Year Awards. I try to keep track of these prestigious awards for professionalism in journalism and media on the African continent because it is a great source of information about Africa’s top news professionals and the award-winning stories they write and produce for print, TV and radio, online news, and photojournalism. This year’s winner of the African Journalist of the Year Award in two separate categories is none other than Richard M. Kavuma!

It’s a bit of surprise because as I stated earlier to the Panos-London staff I personally felt that the AfricaVox 2007 project presented some of the best news professionals in the business and that I was most grateful for being able to communicate with them via the AfricaVox 2007 blog. I had no idea that the Panos AfricaVox crew was that good (like Nr. 1 journalist in Africa good). That Richard Kavuma of Kampala’s The Weekly Observer won this year’s award was also a surprise for other media professionals in Africa as the newspaper where he works has been in publication since 2004. Richards winning entry for the top award was his 2006 8-part series on Uganda’s progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

So without any further ado I want to extend my congratulations to Richard M. Kavuma (aka ‘Rimkav’) and the staff at Uganda’s The Weekly Observer for bringing home one of Africa’s most coveted professional journalism awards. This is the first time in the 12 years of the competition that the African Journalist of the Year Award has come to the country of Uganda. Yo Uganda, congratulations!

Something else that caught my attention re: the African Journalist of the Year Awards is that up to now it hasn’t received much play in the Africa sector of the blogosphere. Why not? Aren’t these people important sources of information and inspiration to aspiring CJ’s (citizen journalists) and blog authors out there? Have we become so ‘full of ourselves’ that we fail to recognize the hard work and excellent contributions to the profession from Africa’s finest news professionals? I certainly hope not. I couldn’t even begin to produce posts for Jewels in the Jungle without the leads and inspiration of professional journalists who cover the continent of Africa and publish their work to the Internet. And I mean all international journalists and news professionals covering the Africa beat regardless of race, creed, color or nationality.

The African Journalist of the Year Awards is in its 12th season, founded in 1995 by Edward Boateng (Turner Broadcasting Systems) and the late Amin Mohammed. The competition is open to African professional journalists and freelancers who work on the African continent for African media organizations that focus their content primarily on an African audience. This year’s competition attracted 1679 entries from over 40 countries in Africa. CNN has more info about the awards at the official website including the two CNN African Journalist Award press releases below:

Ugandan Richard M. Kavuma named CNN Multichoice African Journalist of the Year

CNN Multichoice African Journalist Award finalists announced

CNN’s Inside Africa aired a short report on the award ceremonies in last weekend’s program. It would be a great idea if Femi Oke, Isha Sesay, and the CNN producers would produce a weeklong TV/Internet special on news reporting and journalism in Africa, highlighting the work and actual reports by some of the journalists and other media professionals honored at the African Journalist of the Year Awards. But that, that would be asking too much of the execs at this renowned international news network, wouldn’t it?

Note: Wait a minute, there’s the problem with these awards right there.
Number One: only “professional journalists and freelancers” who work for a “professional” media organization can participate
Number Two: the content must be primarily focused toward an African audience.

Well, that counts Jewels in the Jungle out and the work of thousands of even better online citizen journalists and bloggers worldwide. Africa’s bloggers are to be found everywhere on the planet and they write for a global audience. Maybe we could talk CNN into sponsoring an African Global Citizen Journalist of the Year Award 2008?

Which brings me to the next subject re: CNN International and the CNN Africa news crew: Where is Jeff? Where is Jeff Koinange? Did he quit or was he fired, is he sick, are the Niger Delta rebels holding him for ransom? With all due respect for CNN Inside Africa program host Femi Oke and newcomer correspondent Isha Sesay, Jeff is the guy who has been the Master of Ceremonies at the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist Awards and this year he wasn’t anywhere to be seen, replaced by his CNN colleague Jonathan Mann instead. What’s up with Jeff? What!? No, you’re kidding? Damn.

While I’m on the subject of awards in journalism and news, Reuters Africa deserves a nod of congratulations for winning this year’s Diageo African Business Reporting Awards for the Best Website category. This is especially interesting for those of us who support the Global Voices Online project at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society as Reuters News is one of the principal sponsors of the project. Here is the lowdown on Reuters winning the Diageo Business Reporting Awards at Global Voices Online and the news article about the award on the Reuters Africa website.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Richard M. Kavuma upon receipt of his award at the African Journalist of the Year ceremonies in Cape Town, South Africa last week:

“In accepting this award, I dedicate it to my colleagues at The Weekly Observer in Uganda, and to my fellow journalists in Africa. This is in recognition of journalism that strives to put people at the forefront. With this award, I give my renewed dedication to act as a voice for the voiceless.”

Right On, Richard. If you’ve got a strong voice for the people of Africa, use it.

Related articles and online resources

The Weekly Observer (Uganda)
Observer journalist best in Africa by Carolyne Nakazibwe, 07/26/07
Mand thirsty for safe water by Richard M. Kavuma, 05/10/06

Punch (Nigeria)
How Kavuma won the African Journalist of the Year Award by Waheed Bakare

IPP (East Africa)
CNN/Multichoice Journalist Award winners announced by Lydia Shekighenda (This Day, Nigeria)
Ugandan Kavuma named 2007 CNN Multichoice African journalist, 07/24/07

Ugandan journalist scoops award, 07/24/07
CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the Year official website

Panos Institute – London
Africavox 2007: African voices at the G8 Summit
Africavox 2007 profiles: Richard M. Kavuma

AfricaVox 2007 G8 Summit articles by Richard Kavuma:
‘Green’ fuel must not destroy Africa’s forests, 06/08/07
Protesting for/against whom? 06/04/07
Why Geldorf’s image of a rotting Africa is OK by me, 06/01/07

Jewels in the Jungle
Saving the Africa agenda at the G8 Summit 2007 in Heiligendamm, 06/01/07

Africa Media blog
African voices from the G-8 Summit 2007, 06/12/07

What do Africans think of international news coverage of Africa? 07/26/07
African journalists: more than victims, 08/01/07

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The YouTube Effect on American Politics: CNN/YouTube 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate

Millions of viewers of the 24-hour news network CNN International and visitors to are aware that the network has teamed up with the popular online video community YouTube to produce two groundbreaking 2008 Presidential Candidate Debates. The first of these debates featuring candidates from the U.S. Democratic Party aired on the evening of July 23rd for the CNN USA network (program re-aired July 24th, 10:00 AM CET for CNN International viewers). The second program for the Republican Party candidates is scheduled to air on September 17, 2007.

National politics and political campaigns are oft-times a very nasty business and I try to avoid writing about them here at Jewels like a rat sidestepping a snake pit, but this week’s CNN/YouTube hookup brought some fresh perspectives to the tried and tired political campaign practice of TV debates.

According to the CNN producers and marketing crew this is the first time in U.S. political history that the candidates had to field questions directly from the American public on both national and international TV and the questions were via homemade video clips uploaded to the YouTube video sharing website. More than 3000 videos were submitted for this first debate from YouTube users from around the world. CNN executives and producers labored for weeks in a secure glass-enclosed room to choose 39 video questions for use on the program, keeping their choices a well-guarded secret. The results of this labor and new media ingenuity on the part of all parties involved, especially the people who produced and submitted the videos, is an overwhelming “Thumbs Up” from American voters and CNN viewers and YouTube visitors from around the world.

Of course not everyone was happy about this experiment between the mainstream (traditional) media and the new media crowd (bloggers, online video producers, CJ’s) and some people are not convinced that the CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate was groundbreaking at all. Writing for the Christian Science Monitor Ariel Sabar says,

“The staid rituals of presidential debates met the hurly-burly of the Internet Monday night, in an event cosponsored by YouTube that saw candidates fielding questions that a set of mostly young Americans had uploaded to the video-sharing website.

YouTube and CNN, the other sponsor, promoted the forum as a radical change that harnessed the freewheeling populism of the Web and gave anyone anywhere a shot at quizzing candidates for the country's highest office.

But the debate came off more as evolution than revolution. While the 39 video questions aired during the two-hour program injected some humor and razzle-dazzle into a tired form, the debate retained many familiar trappings. A panel of CNN journalists chose which of the nearly 3,000 YouTube questions to pose to candidates, angering bloggers and Internet activists who felt the choice should be left to Web users.

And despite a few tough questions about the war in Iraq, race relations, and Hillary Clinton's bid to be the first female president, the candidates proved adept at steering answers back to comfortable territory.”

"I'm not convinced it represented a lot beyond at best giving us some break from the routine of the traditional debate genre," said Jamie McKown, a government professor at College of the Atlantic in Maine. "I strongly believe that new e-mediums and advances in communication technology do have the potential to change politics. But this wasn't it."

(End excerpt)

In the January/February 2007 issue of Foreign Policy magazine online, Moisés Naím (editor-in-chief of the magazine) wrote the following about “The YouTube Effect” as it pertained to the international news coverage of uniformed Chinese soldiers allegedly murdering Tibetan monks, women, and children on a Himalayan mountain pass:

“Welcome to the YouTube effect. It is the phenomenon whereby video clips, often produced by individuals acting on their own, are rapidly disseminated throughout the world thanks to video-sharing Web sites such as YouTube, Google Video, and others. Every month, YouTube receives 20 million visitors, who watch 100 million video clips a day. There are 65,000 new videos posted every day. Most of the videos are frivolous, produced by and for teenagers. But some are serious. YouTube includes videos posted by terrorists, human rights groups, and U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Some are clips of incidents that have political consequences or document important trends, such as global warming, illegal immigration, and corruption. Some videos reveal truths. Others spread disinformation, propaganda, and outright lies. All are part of the YouTube effect.

Fifteen years ago, the world marveled at the fabled “CNN effect.” The expectation was that the unblinking eyes of TV cameras, beyond the reach of censors, would bring greater accountability and transparency to governments and the international system. These expectations were, in some sense, fulfilled. Since the early 1990s, electoral frauds that might have remained hidden were exposed, democratic uprisings energized, famines contained, and wars started or stopped, thanks to the CNN effect. But the YouTube effect will be even more intense. Although the BBC, CNN, and other international news operations employ thousands of professional journalists, they will never be as omnipresent as millions of people carrying a cell phone that can record video. Thanks to their ubiquity, the world was able to witness a shooting on a 19,000-foot mountain pass.

This phenomenon is amplified by a double echo chamber: One is produced when content first posted on the Web is re-aired by mainstream TV networks. The second occurs when television moments, even the most fleeting, gain a permanent presence thanks to bloggers or activists who redistribute them through Web sites like YouTube. Activists everywhere are recognizing the power of citizen-produced and Web-distributed videos as the ultimate testimony. The human rights group Witness arms individuals in conflict zones with video cameras so they can record and expose human rights abuses. Electoral watchdogs are taping elections. Even Islamic terrorists have adapted to this trend. Al Qaeda created a special media production unit called Al Sahab (“The Cloud”), which routinely posts its videos online, with the realistic expectation that they will be picked up by major media outlets and other Web sites.”

(End excerpt)
Note: links to external sites added to the original text for clarification

So I am not going to bore you (or embarrass myself) with an attempt at an in-depth analysis of the two-hour cablecast of the CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate but instead will let you decide for yourself. I posted this piece as a Heads Up for my international readers living outside of the U.S.A. because I felt that many of you may not be aware of this important event. Blog authors and online video journalists and content producers from around the world need to take notes on this joint project as it could be possible to duplicate something similar in your corner of the globe.

Below are links to assorted news articles and blog posts about the debates, plus a link to my personal favorite YouTube video questions submitted by Jackie and Dunlap, two upstanding American citizens from the great State of Tennessee. I’ve included links to the CNN and YouTube websites which offer a full selection of articles, blog posts, and video reports covering every minute of the two hour CNN cablecast.

Everything is in this debate for your viewing pleasure: Iraq, domestic issues, Africa (Darfur), race in America and reparations for slavery, national health care, gay marriage rights and wrongs, religion & politics, U.S. foreign policy, education, the economy, passionate emotional outbursts from the candidates on serious issues and humor from the American voting public. Don’t miss a minute of it!

P.S. Checkout all the new embedded features (interactive, video, story highlights, recommended articles, blogs linking to the story, i-Report video, reader comments) on the overhauled website. is back with a vengeance to snatch the coveted Webby Awards for best online news site from the teeth of the BBC News.

Related articles and online resources
CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate (complete video downloads, 2-part)
Questions, not answers highlight YouTube debate users sound off on Monday night’s debate (videos)
Clinton, Obama mix it up over diplomacy answer (CNN Political Ticker blog)
Electorate can show true colors in YouTube debate
Anderson Cooper’s 360 blog (Cooper was the debate moderator)
CNN Election Center 2008
CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate (individual video questions and answers)
Submit your questions for the Republican Debate (scheduled to air September 17th)
YouTube blog: The CNN/YouTube Debate: How did they do?
YouTube behind the scenes at CNN

My Favorite YouTube Democratic Debate video clips

Red State Update's Jackie and Dunlap on John Edwards and Barack Obama
Red State Update’s Jackie and Dunlap on Al Gore
Jackie and Dunlap on the CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate (candidate reactions)
Lessons of the YouTube Debate (Tuned-In TIME TV blog)
Grading the July 23rd Democratic Debate (video slide show of candidates)
Ten Weirdest YouTube Debate Questions

The New York Times
Novel Debate Format, but Same Old Candidates
The Fourth Democratic Debate (full transcript)

The Christian Science Monitor
A debate where citizen is star

Washington Post (posts from the Washington Post’s blogs: The Fix, The Trail)
And this round goes to… (Hillary vs. Obama on foreign relations)
Democratic Debate: a wrap up
Democratic Debate: winners and losers

YouTube Debate: Groundbreaking or Hype?

Yahoo! News
Clinton, Obama clash over diplomacy (AP)
Obama debate comments set off firestorm (AP)

Outside the Beltway
YouTube Debate by James Joyner

The Daily Dish (Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic Online)
The YouTube Debate (full Sullivan coverage)
Hair (candidate John Edward’s YouTube campaign video)

Capitol Hill Blue

Lots of glitz, little substance

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

United States of Africa: fierce debates over new federation of African states tops AU Summit agenda

Dateline Berlin: July 3-4, 2007
AU Summit in Accra debates forming a new USA on the eve of America's Independence Day celebrations

After the much touted China-Africa Summit in Beijing last November and the May 2007 African Development Bank Board of Governors annual meeting in Shanghai, and the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany Africa’s leaders are getting down to business back on their home turf, Africa. The 9th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU Summit 2007 in Accra, Ghana) is turning out to be anything but another ‘ordinary meeting’ of the continents’ 53 heads of state.

The international press is reporting about fierce closed-door debates between key ‘camps of African leaders’ over the formation of a United States of Africa, a pan-African federation of all 53 African countries to help the continent better deal with its own challenges and problems via a unified central government and to meet the challenges of fair trade in an increasingly globalized world. There is plenty of criticism coming from various domestic and international quarters that Africa’s leaders must first deal with serious crisis and conflicts raging on the African continent and begin to find workable solutions for severe problems within their own countries before any talk begins in earnest about a United States of Africa.

What is also interesting are the historical origins of this debate and the passionate arguments being presented from prominent African figures such as the flamboyant Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, Nigeria’s new President Umaru Yar’Adua, AU Chairperson and President of Ghana John Kufour, the AU Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare, and the beloved world figure Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu. Below are two opinion-editorials about earlier United States of Africa proposals discussed at the 2000 OAU Summit held in the West African nation of Togo:

2000 OAU (Organization of African Unity) Summit in Lome, Togo
BBC News: United States of Africa?
Le Monde Diplomatique: Would a United States of Africa Work?

New York Times feature writer Howard French points readers to an article published in The Nation (Nairobi, Kenya) about the confusion with free media access to the AU Summit in Accra. International journalists, news photographers, and TV/radio crews were in a tense standoff with Ghanaian security forces over access to the summit venues and key African leaders. Things have since been sorted out and everyone has calmed down a bit. Which reminds me, how many top authors from the Africa sector of “The Sphere” are blogging LIVE about this important and historic African Union summit?

Below is a roundup of articles and blog posts about the AU Summit in Accra, Ghana that I found to be informative. In the meantime, everyone is awaiting the AU Summit 2007 Communiqué from Africa’s leaders to learn whether they have agreement on moving forward on the U.S. of Africa idea or not. This is exciting stuff, really! I’m thinking about throwing my hat in the ring for President of Africa. Nah, Emperor of Africa would sound better, don’t you think? How about a modern-day black Caesar of Africa? Libya's Colonel Gaddafi already behaves like a Caesar with his theatrics and bold statements. A 'soldier of Africa' my black as...!xxx%/&"!

Related articles and blog posts about the AU Summit 2007 (last updated July 23rd)

AU Summit 2007 in Accra official website
(Note: the AU Summit website has an impressive array of online resources including transcripts of speeches, documents for download, and video files)

African Union official website – 9th African Union Summit in Accra

Stanford University Libraries (SULAIR) – Africa South of the Sahara
African History: Pan-Africanism
Africa urged to embrace unity now by John Kaninda (Business Day, Johannesburg)
Accra Summit - Is Africa ready for one government? by Ephraims Sheyin (Daily Trust, Abuja)
AU Summit opinion editorial by Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Accra Mail, Accra)
Why we oppose Gaddafi by [Nigerian President] Yar’Adua by Josephine Lohor (This Day, Abuja)

Libya's Gaddafi storms out of AU Summit by Els De Temmerman (New Vision, Kampala)


AU's top diplomat Konare bemoans 'leadership crisis' in Africa by Pascal Fletcher
Africa leaders argue over federal government by Pascal Fletcher and Barry Moody
United States of Africa? Summit to debate the dream (CNN)

VOA News – Voice of America (audio and press reports)
Africa awaits Grand Debate communiqué by James Butty (includes MP3 audio file of interview with journalist Kofi Abotchie reporting from the Accra summit)

NPR – National Public Radio
One Everything for Africa? by Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

Mail & Guardian
Summit to map out United States of Africa by Emmanuel Goujon

The Independent (UK)
Ambitious plan for a new Africa: Welcome to the U.S.A.

BBC News

African unity still a dream by Gamal Nkrumah (son of Ghana's 1st President Kwame Nkrumah)
Gaddafi urges pan-African state (includes reader comments)

AU Summit Reporters Diary by Will Ross (the only hourly/daily reporting on the summit that I've been able to find online)
No timetable for uniting Africa (AU Summit closes without consensus on a unified government)

France24 (international news from France in English, French, and Arabic)
African Union embarassed by finances (AFP)
AU Summit ends without agreement on government timetable
EU pledges 'closer ties' with Africa, new era in relations with Africa (AFP)

Al Jazeera - English version
Gadaffi: Africa should unite or die

Global Voices Online (Harvard Law School, Berkman Center)
Is Africa ready for a United States of Africa?

Oluniyi David Ajao blogging from Accra, Ghana
AU Summit in Accra and matters arising

Afro Spear – a 'think tank' group blog by people of African descent
The United States of Africa by Asabagna

African Loft
United States of Africa - A Wishful Thinking? by Ugo Daniels

A Glimpse of the World

AU Summit Opens with Calls for Africa Government by Macharia Gaito (The Nation, Nairobi)

Ghanaweb News
The Gaddafi 109 vehicle, 500 person entourage 'No-Show' disappoints fans

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