Bid to restructure Senegal’s online media

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, Dakar, Senegal

A high-level media forum that will take place in mid-November 2014 in the Senegalese capital Dakar aims at discussing ways of restructuring online media in Senegal to make it look more professional, morally acceptable and trustworthy, and economically viable.

Africa has seen a huge proliferation of online media oulets in the past 10 years or so, mostly on the back of major technological advances and particularly of the internet. But some media analysts believe the quality of many of these media is undesirable, poor and sometimes unethical, and should be called to order, or simply banned.

Now, Senegal wants to put some order in its online media.

The desperate plea to restructure this section of the media was launched this week in Dakar by the Association of Online Editors, Publishers and Media Professionals of Senegal (APPEL in its French acronym).

Most newspapers in Senegal have an online presence, but a range of non-print publications that have mushroomed recently in the country appear to be toeing an unethical, provocative and immoral editorial line – content that sometimes shocks readers in this conservative West African country.

“Many online media publications have overstepped the journalistic limit and I think the time is right to reorganise internet media in our country, and give it some professional and credible face,” student journalist Mohammed Touré said this week in Dakar.

"And it's not only about content. It's also about adopting news business models to help them make some money and become sustainable."  

APPEL said last week that it needed first to consult all the stakeholders and think hard about what kind of mechanisms would have to be put in place to restructure online journalism before it proceeds to find the right legislation.

Will it be self-regulation or inter-regulation? This is the question many are asking in streets corners and media corridors in this nation of 13 million people.

Some online readers, however, have warned against putting in place dictatorial methods to control the media or seeking the government intervention to control cyberjournalism.

“Any attempt to muzzle the internet media by enacting draconian laws will be definitely seen as a violation of media liberties, and this will be vehemently condemned,” Cheik Anta Diop University student Nabi Thierno said.

“The internet does not belong to APPEL or to the government, and readers should be free to see the content that makes them happy,” Thierno charged, defying APPEL and the government.

Like in many African countries, online media in Senegal is left to do what it feels like and the uncontrolled situation has led to an organised chaos, to such an extent that it is even difficult to know how many media websites operate in this country.

 

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