New paper finds connections between media development and political stability in Sub-Saharan Africa

Thursday 26th January 2012 | Author: tspena

Adapted from Sanjukta Roy, “Media development and Political Stability in Sub-Saharan Africa”

The growing literature on economic development, and more that on new institutional economics, has increasingly acknowledged that the media sector of a country is of critical importance in its development process. An independent media sector, free from either public or private control, informs the populace without bias. It acts as an anchor for many facets of a society and supports its fundamental workings – upholding the ruling party or exposing its vices, bringing out the positives and negatives of industry, making citizens’ voices audible to decision makers and most importantly, revealing and spreading economic and other information. However, while independence is clearly important it is not the only characteristic of a healthy media sector. A free media cannot serve its purpose unless it reaches across the whole population, and the majority understands it and uses it as critical source of information. The three most critical attributes of an effective media sector are independence, quality and reach. These benchmarks ensure that information is reported without fear of government and other interest groups, views are expressed from a wide variety of perspectives, and media has the capacity to produce political, social, and economic information for all segments of the society.

As African countries strive for sustainable development, press freedom and the broader issue of democratization of communication have become primary concerns to stakeholders interested in improving African development and governance. In the past two decades, the Sub-Saharan African region has seen mixed growth and developmental outcomes.

This paper takes a holistic look at the impact of a healthy media sector on political risk condition of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, by proxying a healthy media sector by its independence and reach among the population. The context is particularly important for the SSA region because of the political dynamics in the region, what has been called the “third wave of democratization. In the wake of these new developments, it becomes even more imperative to investigate the role a healthy media sector can potentially play to support and strengthen the emergence of democracy in the region.
First, by establishing that media independence and reach together have a greater impact on political risk condition of a country, the paper establishes the importance of a holistic approach to media sector development – both in terms of research and practice.

In terms of policy, establishing a healthy media sector can be seen as a starting point for achieving political stability in a country. The quantitative analysis shows that countries that have more political risk are likely to become more stable by making their media sector more effective.

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