The media has many talents, one of which is that it helps your imagination. You easily can imagine a place you’ve never been to, or relive an experience you haven’t felt. One problem though with this ability is that the media becomes our friend, whom we trust and believe. Is it such a good idea to be friends with the media? Is all of what the media says really the truth?
Some years ago I remember a black American kid about my age asking my sister and me how life was like in Africa, whether people really live on trees. I was shocked then, and I still am whenever I remember that day. In this age of civilisation and information prowess, some still think this. Actually this is not an isolated experience. There are many stories of worse questions others have asked. These questions do not just make you as an African feel sad, but angry. When I’m asked such question, I know it’s all because of the media. Then I wonder, is the media really my friend?
Media bias has a long beginning; the truth is that the media is only a reflection of the opinions held by the populace of that country. Sometimes when watching a simple documentary you will notice that Africans are depicted always in a poor impoverished state. At times, pictures of flies hovering around a naked two year old is often shown, perhaps the child might either look malnourished or have catarrh running from his nose. At other times sights of women fairly clothed cooking in an insect infested area are shown. When it is a natural disaster or political uproar in an African country, these are often examples of scenes that are emphasised. I feel Africa’s problem has been blown out of proportion- the conditions in Africa have been stretched so much that it feels like this is the only truth. It is more like a stereotype if you ask me.
It is not the whole of Africa that experiences drought or that lives under a dollar a day. Nor the whole of Africa that live in slums! Africa for starters is not a country it is a continent, a continent too prejudiced to develop properly. Every country has a not-so-developed area that needs media attention. There’s the Bronx in New York, which is known for poor living conditions. There’s Brixton in London which also is a notorious area with a similar problem. Granted these places have specific problems, the whole of America and the UK are obviously not portrayed in the light of only the problems in these places. I mean it will be absurd to do that. So I ask the question again is the media really my friend? Should I believe anything I watch on TV?
Not until the media portrays Africa in a better image can Africa have the self esteem to grow. With more education and better perceptions, perhaps things can get better and I would not have to worry about answering ignorant uninformed questions that question my origin.