Salim Amin begins his talk with a video of refugees and starving children in Ethiopia, very much the sorts of images that have been the subject of critique this week at the conference. In the background of many of the shots is a photographer – Salim’s father, photojournalist Mohamed Amin.
Salim tells us that those images saved the lives of three million people by calling attention to the famine. Salim tells us that his father had to work tremendously hard to get American media to use these images – they were refused at first, before being adopted and amplified in the media.
Mohamed Amin died a decade ago while negotiating on a hijacked Ethiopian airlines plane. These were not images of the Africa he loved, but they were tremendously important. They became tangible proof of the trouble and suffering in Africa, helping create responsibility for African problems around the globe.
Salim Amin wants to take on a different challenge – making African voices telling African news available to the world. His new project is A24 – a 24-hour news channel about Africa, covered by Africans. This is a lesson Salim took for his father – Africa must be covered by Africans.
Salim is concerned about the damaging impact of the stereotypical portrayal of Africa – in a very real sense, his father’s twenty year old images are still many people’s images of Africa. We need a project like A24 to build contemporary images of the real Africa, “to shape our own vision of ourselves.” Why do we need another news channel? Because we have none for Africa – SABC is compromised by South African government influence, he argues, and CNBC is a business news channel.
The station will be supported by 46 “low-cost, high-tech” bureaus around the continent. They’ll cover breaking news as well as longer feature stories – including some of the ideas put on the stage at TED. It will broadcast around the world and into rural Africa, using the Internet, radio, satellite TV, “and most importantly cellphones.” It will be offered to all national networks free to air, “in part because it’s hard to get them to pay”, and will be supported by advertising, international content syndication and satellite subscriptions.
“Democracy is not possible without a strong, independent media,” Amin tells us. If A24 is a success, his work will do more than improve broadcast journalist – it will help create transparency and democracy across the continent.