A Search for an Appropriate Communications Model for Media in New Democracies in Africa

Sam Chege Mwangi


A decade after much of Africa embraced democratic governance, the African print media still operates using the old model of communication that is paternalistic and non-inclusive. As the continent develops democratic institutions and a civic culture, the print media needs to adopt a new and democratic communications model in order to serve as a public sphere that promotes public deliberation. Using a case study of a Kenyan print media organization as an example of the paternalistic model, this research identifies three normative media theories and a popular model of civic engagement to sketch out a new communications model — the social-democratic communications model — that is more democratic and rooted in African history and culture. The new model treats information not as a commodity, but as a social product generated in a deliberative public sphere. The article suggests expanding the notion of public sphere to include traditional African public spaces, such as marketplaces, and calls for new and innovative ways of capturing public dialogue.

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