Misrepresentation of Africa has been common in international news over 30 years, says Professor Randall Smith of the University of Missouri.
Professor Smith, head of the university’s Reynolds Institute of Journalism, told the conference international media had habitually failed to identify the real issues in Africa which, in turn, led to misrepresentation of the continent and its people.
“Africa is not a country,” he said, pointing to common belief in the west that it is one homogenous entity with common issues and problems. Because of he western media’s inaccurate portrayal of Africa, however, he encountered many people who simply regarded Africa as a place where “poor people are” and “horrible diseases come from”.
As a result, “there is a fear of Africa, mainly because of the unknown,” he said.
“The unreported story is that Africa is lifting itself up,” he said. Africa’s GDP, for instance, had been steadily increasing over the last five years at a rate of 51 per cent, far greater than the USA’s 13 per cent growth.
I feel Randall Smith, Africans have too much stigma, my partner's family is so nice and always inviting me to Zambia! #macleayirc16
— Zabrina Potestas (@zjpotestas) March 23, 2016
Professor Smith added that media often overlooks the positive news coming out of Africa because it has focused, instead, on things like terrorism – topics which have a greater hold on the Western imagination – and suggested that was partly why an ebola disease outbreak that ravaged West Africa for months was barely reported by Western media until a US citizen, recently returned from Africa, was diagnosed with the disease on American soil. – Peter Moon
Photo of Melbourne Macleay students listening to Professor Randall Smith’s conference speech by Andrew Brain.