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Church-sponsored news agency delves into African realities

By Barrie Zwicker


A NUMBER OF CHURCHES are backing the development of a press service out of Africa that neither is a mouthpiece for government nor produces copy moulded exclusively to the interests of the Western-based commercial media.

African Press Service (APS) Syndication was launched in January 1981 and since has gained 250 subscribers worldwide.

Its pool of 80 writers across the African continent includes senior editors and reporters from Africa's largest and most influential papers, church media, national press offices, published authors and Christian councils and secretariats.

Funding for the APS parent organization, Africa Church Information Service, comes from the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), Lutheran World Federation, World Association for Christian Communication, the World Council of Churches and individual churches such as the United Church of Canada. The United Church in the past two years has offered gift subscriptions totalling US$7,000.

Administrator/promoter Robert N. Kizito visited Canada and the U.S. in March to address church and professional media, groups about APS and seek more subscribers and support.

"Africa is still without an effective means of communicating with itself and with others," Kizito said. "It is perhaps not news to you that we often hear from our neighbouring countries and sometimes from parts of our own countries through BBC, AFP, UPI, etc.

"Ironically, these agencies will more often than not quote Western diplomatic sources or European travellers," Kizito noted. "It is our hope that in future we shall be able to quote African diplomatic sources."

The syndication service offers "non-religious in-depth features and development news briefs". The client's regular lineage fee is paid for material broadcast or printed.

The parent body, Africa Church Information Services (ACIS), also sells the weekly APS Bulletin and African Christian. Bulletin, which sells outside Africa for U.S.$150 annually, includes church and secular news and features. African Christian devotes itself to church news or closely related news.

Free samples of all three are available.

APS, Kizito said, tries to give a "different perspective" on African affairs, a perspective "which the Western press agencies in their desire to feed a sensational, hungry media often ignore."

He stressed that APS was not established, however, "to counter what many believe to be a negative stance by the Western agencies. No good and honest journalist would advocate suppressing genuine news of Africa's traumatic developments. The world has a right to know about coups, famine, war and disease in Africa.

"While not shying away from (these), APS also projects the positive side of African developments and delves deeper into the continent's realities."

He said he was proud of the number of national and international media "of various slants" that pick up APS stories.

In an interview, Kizito said APS has been banned in South Africa.

He said the development of a churches-sponsored secular wire service was not so surprising. It was the churches who first took communication education in Africa seriously, establishing the Africa Literature Centre in Kitwe, Zambia in 1959 and then the All-Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) Training Centre in Nairobi.

"Both continue to play a vital role in the training of journalists and broadcasters," he said.

Kizito noted that in his home country of Uganda, the Catholic daily Munno (friend) boldly challenged the government before and during Amin's regime. Amin had Munno's editor, a priest, put to death. 

Published in Sources Spring 1982


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