East African j-school to educate media owners

Aga Khan University’s j-school in East Africa aims to teach media owners about their responsibility to society, His Highness the Aga Khan said in Toronto earlier this week. Khalid Magram reports.

Aga Khan University’s new Graduate School of Media and Communications in East Africa soon will commence on a unique mission of teaching media owners about their responsibilities in a society. It will also concentrate more on training journalists from developing world on how to deliver quality analysis in wake of events such as referendum, civil conflicts and elections.

HH the Aga Khan delivering a lecture on pluralism & Journalism in front of a packed audience at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

“One of the things we looked at for our school of journalism is who has the ultimate responsibility for what is sold on the streets and what is shown on TV,” said His Highness the Aga Khan, during the LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium lecture at the Royal Conservatory of Music Friday. “And I think our conclusion is been essentially that it is the owners rather than manufacturer of the product.”

His Highness said, therefore the school of journalism is going to be about educating the owners on what are their responsibilities in a society, what are their responsible to the region – because ultimately they have to decide what it is that they want to distribute within their own countries.

“Conveying quality information in developing world has been very challenging for many years for our network (the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)).”The Aga Khan added. “For example finding a competent journalist to write on comparative government in developing world is very big problem, which mean when there is referendum on constitution the actual value of that referendum becomes subject to question.”

He was quick however to point out some exceptions efforts of journalists work in the developing world. He cited a veteran Ghanaian journalist, who recently wrote of African journalists’ contributions on number of essential events in Africa.

Kwame Karikari, executive director of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), recently summed up the power of autonomous journalists when he wrote of their

“…remarkable contributions to peaceful and transparent elections in Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia; to post-conflict transitions … in Liberia, Mozambique and Sierra Leone; and to sustaining constitutional rule … in Guinea, Kenya and Nigeria.”

Aga Khan’s host, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s John Ralston Saul and founder of the Symposium asked the Aga Khan how exactly the new grad school would be able to do things different from other j-schools elsewhere, which seems to be engaging more in teaching of technical stuff and not the content of what is it to be a journalist.

The Aga Khan replied that the media owners would be primary beneficiary of the graduate school – by ‘educating the media owners’. A fascinating concept Saul noted – bringing thunderous laughter from the audience that included senior Canadian journalists.

The Aga Khan once again emphasized the urgency of pluralism challenge during his speech at Royal Conservatory of Music in Downtown Toronto.

“Independent news media and journalists free from external control and constraint are key element in building stronger pluralist societies,” said Aga Khan, who is also spiritual leader of world’s 14-million Shia Ismaili Muslims

His Highness also noted that a wide-open internet allows divisive information to travel as far and as fast as reliable information. There are virtually no barriers to entry and anyone responsible or irresponsible – can play the game.

“The way we communicate with one another has been revolutionized,” he says.

“However, more communication has not meant more cooperation.” More information has also meant more mis-information – more superficial snapshots, more shards of stray information taken out of context, he said.

“We are at a particularly complex moment in human history. The challenges of diversity are frightening for many people, in societies all around the world. But diversity also has the capacity to inspire,” His Highness the Aga Khan said.

This article originally appeared on Khalid Magram’s blog, Khalid’s News Hole.