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Major global media still fails Africa, but bright spots emerge

GLOBAL Media Index reveals flawed coverage of Africa by major news outlets where balanced reporting by a few is overshadowed by persistent stereotypes by many.

DESPITE some progress, a clichéd and often stereotypical coverage of Africa persists among major global media outlets.

However, there are notable exceptions like The Guardian, AFP, Al Jazeera, and Reuters, which are breaking the mould with balanced reporting of the continent.

Findings from the University of Cape Town’s Global Media Index for Africa (GMI) suggest that major news outlets still fall short in providing a nuanced view of Africa.

GMI researchers tracked the coverage of Africa by 20 of the world’s top news providers over six months, analysing over 1,000 articles for the diversity of topics, sources, the number of African countries covered, and depth of coverage.

The Guardian topped the index for accurate reporting with a score of 63%, followed closely by AFP and Al Jazeera at 61%, and Reuters at 60%, all providing balanced and comprehensive coverage.

Uzodinma Iweala, CEO of The Africa Center, highlighted the broader implications of media narratives, noting they shape perspectives and influence how global decision-makers engage with Africa.

“Media coverage of Africa has become more balanced over the years, largely due to the advent of social media that offers first-person counter-narratives to biases in journalism based on antiquated beliefs,” he said.

However, several prominent American media outlets ranked at the bottom of the index, highlighting significant gaps in their portrayal of Africa. The Washington Post scored 47%, the Wall Street Journal 48% and The New York Times only slightly better, at 51%.

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These scores reflect a narrow focus on politics, poverty, and corruption, often at the expense of more diverse and nuanced stories.

Wallace Chuma, the report’s lead researcher, explained that the research is important not just as a snapshot of current media practices but also as a “call to action for global media to critically examine their storytelling about Africa and understand its impact.”

“The index serves as a baseline from which we can push for more nuanced and equitable media narratives,” he added.

“This study marks an important step towards challenging the status quo and enriching global understanding of Africa.”

Mid-tier performers included outlets like VOA News and CNN, both scoring 59% and Deutsche Welle with 58%.

These outlets showed a more balanced approach but still lagged behind the top performers. CGTN and Associated Press both scored 57%, while BBC and Xinhua each scored 55%.

Le Monde scored 54%, and Bloomberg 53%. RFI, Russia Today, and The Economist each scored 52%, showing a mixed performance.

Moky Makura, executive director at Africa No Filter, which backed the report, stressed the importance of the Index as a tool for improvement, given the outsize influence these global media outlets have on how the world sees Africa and how Africa sees itself.

“It’s in our interests as concerned Africans to track and monitor what and how they write about us. But it’s important that we see the Index as a carrot, rather than a stick – we are highlighting what is working and showing what is possible when it comes to reporting on Africa.”

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The GMI also found that global media coverage often features powerful men predominantly, sidelining ordinary Africans and marginalized groups.

“The voices of ordinary Africans were missing in the stories because global reporting still privileges the voices of powerful elites, both local and international,” the index noted, listing experts, politicians, national leaders, and international organizations as the dominant voices.

The Guardian scored highest for including diverse voices, with a score of 62%, whereas Russia Today ranked lowest at 36%.

“Very little attention is given to ordinary citizens and other traditionally marginalised voices like young people, women, and traditional leaders. Once again, The Guardian is in first place with a score of 62% for the range of diverse voices in its articles. Russia Today ranked at number 20 with a score of 36%,” the index reported.

Despite the shortcomings, the GMI notes that many well-funded media organizations scored high on depth of coverage, reflecting an awareness of the tenets of good journalism.

Le Monde excelled in providing context, scoring 95%, and Xinhua led in stereotype avoidance with 97%.

Africa No Filter is upbeat, the GMI would help improve the global media’s portrayal of Africa, offering a baseline from which to push for more nuanced and equitable media narratives.