Tuesday May 24, 2005-- Rabi-us-Sani 15, 1426 A.H.
NAIROBI: His Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili community and founder of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) today emphasised the importance of both press freedom and excellence in journalism in order to help build Africa’s future.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the International Press Institute (IPI) World Congress and 54th General Assembly held in Kenya, the Aga Khan stressed the need for journalists to acquire deeper and broader knowledge of new and complex issues that confront Africa.
"The major issues in Africa today are complex and elusive and old approaches have often failed. But every day, leaders in Africa and elsewhere are thinking in new ways," he said. "My central question today, however, is whether we have enough good journalists who know enough about these subjects and can help African audiences understanding their African implications."
Underlining the need to better understand the implications for African countries of scientific progress in the 21st century, the Aga Khan cited the example of breakthroughs in stem-cell research, which have the potential to transform approaches to personal and public health. Likewise, the revolution in bioengineering promise to change rural societies, just as new information technologies can transform education throughout Africa - including the most remote areas.
The Aga Khan stressed the need to increase dialogue and communication among journalists and "the voices of civil society" namely, politicians, civil servants, business and religious leaders. He said that governments should place more emphasis on providing information to journalists to help them better understand policy issues. Background briefings are common in the West, but rare in Africa.
The Aga Khan said that these problems are not intractable. "I believe that a concerted effort to invest in the quality of African journalism can launch an upward spiral of progress," he said, urging media owners and managers to be more conscious of the quality of journalism rather than being solely profit oriented.
The Aga Khan was speaking at the opening ceremony of the four-day media conference, which brought together an audience of over 300 media owners, managers and professionals from around the world. The conference was officially opened by Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki.