Transparency and Accountability in Government – Africa
Countries represented: Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, and the United States.
Last Monday, the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council's International Visitor Program hosted a delegation of commissioners, government advisors, journalists, producers, and leaders from across the African region to hear from a panel of U.S. journalists working to combat misinformation and expose the truth in U.S. politics and government.
Panelists were invited from Colorado, Vermont, and Wisconsin to speak on behalf of their publications.
There were common themes among each journalist on the panel. The problem of partisanship in media echoed among each journalist as they empathized with the pressures and influencers.
Matthew Roy is the news editor for the independent publication Seven Days in Burlington, Vermont. Seven Days is a weekly publication born out of intellectual curiosity and love of the state, to be the independent voice of Vermont. Roy shared his experiences as a consumer and producer of media. He elaborated on outside pressures faced as a journalist to change or withhold the truth in his articles.
David Armiak is the research director of Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a nationally recognized watchdog group based in Madison, Wisconsin. Armiak also described his regular encounters with pressures and influences on gutsy stories that expose and tell the truth. He recalled threats from individuals and organizations looking to sue if the publication did not remove incriminating stories. Armiak and his team at CMD have rigorous research and accountability processes for each article, ensuring readers get the truth.
Tom Roeder, city editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette spoke on behalf of what Colorado Springs journalism is doing to hold state and federal government accountable. He believes that regardless of geography, the struggle between journalists and the government is present and eternal. To Roeder, the key to holding the government accountable is by "quoting them accurately," to ensure readers can draw their conclusions.
During his time with fellow panelists and delegates, he was taken aback by a question posed by a delegate.
"It was a question especially from a journalist in Chad," said Roeder. "It was basically 'How is it that you can do this in America?'-- How is it that we can really stand up to our government? The answer is that it's something that happened long before I came along. It's just striking to you that that doesn't exist elsewhere… It's not something one thinks about every day. But you really don't think about it in your professional life and the freedoms you enjoy."
"It really shows you how lucky we are in this country and Colorado to have the freedoms we enjoy and how we've established a system to allow journalism to act as a counterweight to government oppression," said Roeder.
Roeder applauded the "enthusiasm and bravery" of his colleagues overseas that work in "very difficult environments." He also expressed the necessity of the knowledge exchange that occurs during international meetings like these.
"How important discussions that are enabled by the [Colorado Springs] World Affairs Council can be to building these freedoms in oppressed lands. And how eventually Africa can rise above the problems that it faces…" said Roeder. "I am very proud that we were able to bring the journalism that we do in Colorado Springs as something to enable others, and along with my colleagues from across the country, I hope [delegates] were able to find things that were empowering."
Upon closing, the panelists addressed the delegation and encouraged journalists in Africa to speak the truth no matter the consequences and bravely report on heavy topics.