The Role of the Press in Senegal: Challenges and Opportunities for Democracy

2024-04-14 20:30:02

“The press is the mirror of society, but it can also be its manipulator. »

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombian writer and journalist, Nobel Prize in Literature (1982).

The role of the media in educating citizens and consolidating democracy no longer needs to be demonstrated in our country. Since the end of the 1990s and the beginning of 2000, the press has never ceased to play an important role in raising citizen awareness through information, awareness-raising and the promotion of freedom of expression.

The press, considered the fourth power not yet institutionalized (“The press is the fourth power in democracy.” according to Albert Einstein), is at the center of political, economic and social life. It is a powerful lever for development if it is well oriented towards the education, training and development objectives that Senegal has set for itself. This is why the media must not be censored. But in view of the evolution of things, they must be cleaned up to make better use of them in the service of freedom, democracy, education and development. And for this, we must review the training of press actors and the programs that the different media offer to Senegalese people, especially on TV and Radio.

The sad reality is that the media in our country produce what the Senegalese consume and the Senegalese consume what the Senegalese media produce. In other words, the media only delivers to the Senegalese population their order in terms of media consumption like a restaurant delivers to its customer the dish he ordered.

In truth, the real actors of the press must hold their meetings to clean up their environment (Launched in August 2023 in Dakar, the Senegalese media meetings attempted to identify the main problems of the local press). The world of media is infested today with actors who are not necessarily journalists and therefore not necessarily professionals in what they do. The latter do not always care about the rules of ethics and professional conduct of the profession. In addition, there is a real problem of axiological neutrality among many journalists who are no longer limited to passing on information but to commenting on it; the facts being sacred, comment is free.

The other nagging question is that of aid to the press. Is this money used to improve the working conditions of journalists or to satisfy the personal needs of press owners? The people must be edified by this support for the media because it is the Senegalese taxpayer’s money. Journalists themselves must demand clarity in the management of this financial envelope from which their bosses benefit each year.

In the world of the media, there is a certain precariousness of employment and a certain economic and financial misery which does not always help certain press actors to maintain their dignity and their moral and religious integrity in the face of corruption and multiple pressures from lobbies who want to control and guide the State and national public opinion.

The profession of journalism is going astray today. Everyone can be a journalist even if not everyone has been trained to be one. The vocation tends to disappear, giving way to the quest for fame, to the frantic search for buzz and sensationalism, in a country where we no longer make the difference between public space and private space, the useful and profitable information to the Senegalese and the private problems of married life.

This attention to the sensational has given rise in Senegal to a caste of influencers who sit on social networks and exert a power of influence through their speech, their behavior and their illusions. This leads us to believe that young people are prey to a form of socialization where the power of money and luxury dominates, and the search for buzz which constitutes the basis of commerce for many press outlets, especially those online. .

The quest for buzz is an obstacle to verifying information. It is also a brake on general culture which must be the weapon with which every journalist must equip himself to better practice his profession. The truth is that a journalist must be cultured. He must also be a rigorous researcher in the quest and verification of information and an informed reader who is interested in everything that happens in his country and beyond the borders.

Therefore, the competent services of the State and the journalistic authorities authorized to control the press must take firm measures against insults, discrepancies in language, crypto-personal attacks, ethnic, cultural and religious stigmatization, prejudices which threaten national cohesion and the social and political stability of Senegal.

The press must certainly remain free, but it must also be responsible, because it actively participates in the awakening of the people and the formation of a citizen conscience, guarantor of a citizen commitment in the service of the nation. Because with this freedom also comes responsibility. The press plays a crucial role in the political education of citizens, in the formation of their civic consciousness and in encouraging their active participation in democratic life.

As the guardian of democracy, the press has a responsibility to report the facts accurately, analyze complex issues impartially and provide a fair platform for different points of view. It must also be vigilant against the dissemination of false information, hate speech and disinformation, which can compromise social cohesion and undermine public confidence in democratic institutions. This is why the State must not also watch over… Appropriate regulations can be put in place for the press, while preserving its editorial freedom. This could include codes of professional conduct, independent regulatory bodies and sanctioning mechanisms for serious breaches.

Furthermore, it is undeniable that the press played a significant role in the three democratic alternations in Senegal. This is why it must be supported and guided to continue to be the “guardian of democracy”, as Noam Chomsky maintains. However, it is essential that it is first cleaned up to regain its former place and integrity.

Ngor Dieng

Counseling psychologist

[email protected]

The Hadji Farba Diop


[email protected]


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