Traditional media maintains lead over new media in Africa

IREX's latest Africa Media Sustainability Index (MSI) found that traditional media remain the preferred source of news. Many benefits presented by online media have yet to reach most citizens in the 42 sub-Saharan African countries analysed. Nonetheless, transition to online and mobile format media appears inevitable.

Malian journalists characterise online media as in its infancy. In Botswana, a participant stressed that his colleagues do not adequately use online resources to gather and distribute news. Online advertising flourishes in Malawi but participants questioned profitability. Namibia's lack of local language content online is a barrier to many; in Burundi, and many countries, steep cost prevents access. In Ethiopia, critical bloggers find their content blocked periodically and report cases of threats.

Positive findings do indicate a brighter future. Kenyan participants cheered improved affordability and availability of Internet, and noted social media is taught in some journalism schools. Internet-broadcast radio shows potential sustainability in Liberia. In Angola, online media provide an outlet for critical analysis of the government.

The MSI's unique methodology measures journalism quality, media management, news plurality, press freedom, and institutions supporting media. African journalists, media advocates, academics, and related professionals evaluate their own media sector. Results are compiled by IREX, a leading organization working to develop independent media globally.

The MSI has recorded progress and setbacks since 2007. Gains have been made in press freedoms, as journalists face fewer overt challenges to free speech. Countries adopting the Declaration of Table Mountain, which decriminalizes libel, have further improved. However, business management practices have suffered as revenues dropped during the global economic slowdown. Fears of losing advertising revenues are pervasive, such that editorial and advertising interests often intersect in newsrooms.

South Africa remains the region's best performer, despite backsliding in recent years, followed by Namibia and GhanaDjibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan were considered unsustainable, demonstrating severe problems with free speech, the quality of journalism, and absence or weakness of institutions supportive of a free media environment.

The U.S. Agency for International Development funds the Africa MSI. Other editions cover 40 countries across Eastern Europeand the Middle East. The MSI is a trusted evaluation of global media health, providing donors, media advocates, local professionals, and scholars a decade of rich data.

See for the full report.

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