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Saturday, April 5, 2003 (All day) to Wednesday, April 9, 2003 (All day)

One hundred and six journalists from 26 countries from five continents, met this week to address … “Changing media in changing societies.”

Why this conference?

When you mention changing societies, people tend to immediately think of South Africa. And so it should be. After all, it is less than a decade since 1994 when the first democratic elections were held. Prior to that, the country had been a source of concern and sorrow for millions of people around the world dedicated to the concepts of democracy, freedom and fairness.

Now the country wrestles the problems of change. These problems include:

  • the support of media freedom where the rights of freedom of expression were taken away from many and are therefore not always clearly understood.
  • instilling the concept of democracy into societies that were previously disenfranchised
  • the mutual understanding of communities previously separated by legislation
  • transforming workplaces, especially media houses, in a society where the majority were previously deprived of anything but the most basic education and the legacy of apartheid education still lives on
  • not forgetting that social justice remains a key element of democracy

This conference aimed to examine these issues and seek out where there have been successes and where there have been failures. Another goal was also to see how the media have been affected by the changes and, at the same time, how they had, have or could have an impact for changes.

But these are not the only issues of change that South Africa is facing. The country has rejoined a changed world where economic boundaries have eroded, technology (to mention only the internet and the cell phone communications) has, and is making rapid advances and the communications industry has had to re-examine its own role.

There is no doubt that the time was right for an open discussion and that media people from Southern Africa, from the whole of Africa and from around the world found it fascinating to share experiences and engage in a dialogue led by South African journalists, broadcasters and publishers.

Click here for a full Report on the Cape Town Forum (the PDF file is 400kb and may take a little while to download):

Click here for the Forum Agenda.

Some Comments from Delegates to the ICF's Cape Town Forum: 

I want to express my profound gratitude for being part of the ICF in Cape Town. I felt there were some openings which I am sure will be of vital importance and help to our Development Broadcasting Unit (DBU) at the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
Hassan Nkata, Malawi
I thank you so much for the great opportunity you have given me to speak about Angola and for the forceful statement made by ICF. Please, let me have both the statement and the letter to widen its circulation among media organizations and practitioners.
Rafael Marques, Angola

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to network with a variety of interesting and knowledgeable people across a range of subjects, with a strong focus on the ethics of our profession. I found the gender presentation by Prof Rabie to be riveting and thought provoking, and was especially moved by the trials and tribulations suffered by colleagues from Angola and Sierra Leone. It is crucial for more people to hear their stories and struggles against media oppression.
Thanks again for this amazing interactive experience/
Judy Sandison, South Africa

Accept my warm and sincere greetings from Cameroon. Cape Town was indeed a valuable experience for me. Since I graduated from the school of journalism(1988) it was my first time to meet foreign journalists in a large number and to share experience. I found the experience very constructive and it gave me a clear idea of problems of media worldwide. In Africa, journalists have a lot of problems because of the interference of governments. The environment of media is not at all clean . We have problems of management of source of information and of training journalists. The forum brought a lot to me and I want to thank the organisers for all what has being done for me
Gregoire Ndjaka, Cameroon

It was good to be in Cape Town. We had an excellent array of panellists who covered many of the major issues confronting journalists in our changing world.
What struck me most, however, was Bill Porter's self-revelation of where he'd gone wrong, switched gears and found a more compelling and globally relevant motivation. I think we need an outpouring of such honesty and change among media professionals to win back the public confidence we've lost. Much of what Bill said I'd heard him say before, but he seemed to go wider and deeper this time and doubtless touched many cords among listeners. This is what distinguishes ICF.
Another significant aspect of the conference was the presence of so many African journalists who shared their difficulties, hopes and plans not only enlightening but also inspiring us. It was clearly an honor and privilege for me to get to know more about their struggles coupled with the sense and hope that they left Cape Town with more strength to face them.
Bob Webb, USA

What stands out for me was Bernard Margueritte’s question at the end of the forum as to whether participants felt they were now more inspired to improve journalism. The positive response was more than just politeness, and it reflected that the occasion did indeed stimulate our journalistic and humanitarian consciences.
Overall, everyone will have gained some new insights on what the problems with journalism are, and how we might start to address them. So that is valuable growth.
Many thanks to you and ICF supporters for arranging the event and the hard work put into it.
Guy Berger, South Africa

The reception that the topic "gender" got was on the one hand amazing - on the other gratifying. Maybe there is fertile ground out there for things to start happening in terms of gender and media - in every respect.
Lizette Rabe, South Africa

The ICF conference held in Cape Town was an opportunity for me to meet with journalists not only from another country but from another continent. I was immediately impressed by the fact that in Africa, particularly South Africa, the relationship between quality media and quality democracy was understood as a first principle and a matter of common sense. In more affluent countries like my own, this is too easily lost from sight. It was inspiring for me to meet journalists who had endured imprisonment in pursuit of their beliefs and professional practices. I was also heartened by the conference statements on the war in Iraq and the role the media is playing to inflame factional rivalries and hatred in Angola. I concur entirely with the ICF's belief that responsible media can play a role in alleviating conflicts and disputes simply by the way they choose to represent the different viewpoints.
Going to South Africa, meeting the people both at the conference and around it was, for me, a major experience.
Martin Flanagan, Australia

The International Communications Forum conference on "Changing Media in a Changing Society" was a right event on the right place in the right time. This topic is a problem worth to discuss only in southern Africa. The society undergoes currently changes in many parts of the World. In Cape Town, I got the chance to compare media problems in new political environment in Africa after apartheid with a very similar situation in Central and Eastern Europe in the post-communist era. I appreciate very much the possibility to discuss the issue with our African colleagues. And my experience is that the major media problems in changing society are very similar in CEE as well in Africa. It will probably demand broader and longer discussions to define and find solutions for appropriate changes; especially I would call for more media responsibility, in changing societies. Thank again to ICF for have had this marvellous opportunity to exchange experience and learn a lot about media in Southern Africa.
Pavol Mudry, Slovakia

The conference in Cape Town was most relevant in addressing the problems of Journalists and their profession, particularly in Africa where new democracies are emerging after years of civil conflict and economy stagnation. That was why I appreciated the representation of African Countries at the conference. Through the various presentation, it was identified that lack of training, gender issues, culture and globalisation, new forms of communications, commercial, public and community radio broadcast, journalists working in difficult situations are all issues which need to be addressed at various levels for effective development of journalism and broadcasting in developing countries. The role of ICF in this could be determined by the Forum. I personally loved the interaction amongst professionals, academics, communication technology service providers and practicing journalists from countries the world over. It created an atmosphere of variety, relevant links and inter-media discussions which open up challenges and issues for further debate.
Ivan Thomas, Sierra Leone

Thanks for a wonderful conference. The content was informative and highlighted important issues in the media which really did need to be addressed. It was also great to meet journalists from around the world and be able to chat to them about the way the media in their country worked. The resolution passed on the situation in Angola showed that the delegates to the conference were interested in making a difference, and it was great to see members of the media and academia take a stand on a situation rather than simply moaning about it. I really enjoyed myself - congratulations on your first, and completely successful, conference in Africa.
Trevor Crighton, South Africa

Revisiting South Africa for me was most thrilling. As a Russian TV journalist I was privileged to cover the 1994 majority elections and it was a great relief for me to discover that the country has since stayed the course of freedom and civil liberties. This is mostly thanks to its free press unparalleled anywhere on the African continent. Please allow me to express my heart-felt gratitude to the organizers of the Cape Town ICF meeting.
Yury Reshetnikov, Russia

What interested me most was our acceptance that journalistic standards and training are poor in South Africa and dreadful in the rest of Africa, but that passion for our craft is alive and well. Unfortunately, the passion of journalists to tell it like they see it s often doused with the cold water of accountants' notebooks. This devotion to the bottom line is compounded by the lack of training journalists receive, making them ever more vulnerable to accusations of inaccuracy.
Peter Sullivan, South Africa