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9-Misc: African journalists pledge more balanced GM coverage

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  African journalists pledge more balanced GM coverage
SOURCE: SciDev.Net, UK, by Talent Ngandwe
DATE:   14 Oct 2005

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African journalists pledge more balanced GM coverage

[LUSAKA] Journalists in east and southern Africa have pledged to make
their coverage of biotechnology-related issues more balanced, accurate
and analytical.

The group issued a declaration outlining their resolve on 7 October in
the Zambian capital Lusaka.

This states that with growing pressure on African nations to accept
genetically modified (GM) crops, journalists have a critical role to play
in educating the public about biotechnology.

Acknowledging that biotechnology is a divisive area dominated by strong
pro- and anti-GM viewpoints, the journalists committed themselves to
"accurate and truthful" reporting and to "learning and interpreting the
science of genetic engineering for the benefit of the public".

The journalists -- who hail from Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda
and Zimbabwe -- issued their declaration at a workshop organised by the
southern African branch of the UK-based Panos Institute.

So far, none of these countries has commercialised GM crops or developed
a comprehensive biotechnology policy. The governments of Kenya, Tanzania
and Uganda are in favour of GM technology, while those of Malawi,
Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have adopted a more precautionary approach to it.

In May, the Panos Institute released a report that said the Kenyan and
Zambian media tended to be one-sided on GM issues and uncritical of the
government line (see Developing world media 'lacks critical analysis of GM').

The declaration appears to tackle this issue, stating: "We acknowledge
that an informed media is key to pluralism, thus we must be active in
making people aware of the issues, and stimulate debate between different
stakeholders." Among the authors are journalists from government-owned
media outlets including Uganda's New Vision newspaper, the Zambia Daily
Mail, the Times of Zambia and the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.


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