Salon Wanderlust | Another Africa

Chinua Achebe does something brilliant in his Salon article: Another Africa:

Disaster parades today with impunity through the length and breadth of much of Africa: war, genocide, dictatorship, military government, corruption, collapsed economy, poverty, disease, and every ill attendant upon political and social chaos!

It is necessary for these sad conditions to be reported because evil thrives best in quiet, untidy corners. In many African countries, however, the local news media cannot report these events without unleashing serious and sometimes fatal consequences. And so the foreign correspondent is frequently the only means of getting an important story told, or of drawing the world's attention to disasters in the making or being covered up. Such an important role is risky in more ways than one. It can expose the correspondent to actual physical danger; but there is also the moral danger of colonizing another's story. This will immediately raise the question of the character and attitude of the correspondent. For the same qualities of mind that separated a Conrad from a Livingstone... are still present and active today. Perhaps this difference can best be put in one phrase: the presence or absence of respect for the human person.

The presence or absence of respect is perhaps the most subtle, but also the most important rule about working in a place not your own.


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