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Seeking balance in global news flows: Revisiting the Pan-African News Agency experience

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Africa and Africans have for centuries faced the issue of negative representation in international news media and particularly in the western news media. News reports in these foreign media connote Africa as a backward continent with barbaric people and unchanging culture. These negative representations are “historical baggage” carried from colonial rulers and have lived on to define Africa and its people. The “single story” of Africa being a crisis-stricken continent with a people in need of civilization is one that Africa and Africans have long fought to overturn. The desire to “own the African story” prompted the establishment of the Pan-African News Agency (PANA) by the Organization of African Unity (OAU). With its core mandate of correcting the distorted image of Africa and contributing to global news flow, the Pan-African News Agency was poised to offer a more positive reporting of Africa to counter persistent negative narratives. This study analyzes the successes and failures of PANA in achieving its core mandate, focusing on developments through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Although PANA exists today, it is now a private enterprise and not very active or effective. Therefore, this study seeks to learn lessons from PANA’s past experiences to inform future measures to revamp the Pan-African News Agency achieve its core mandate of balancing global news flow.
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