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Celebrating 50 years of news

Saturday March 13 2010

Nation Media Group, the largest news organisation in East and Central Africa, has laid out an elaborate plan to celebrate its 50th birthday, including an international  media conference this week. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

Nation Media Group, the largest news organisation in East and Central Africa, has laid out an elaborate plan to celebrate its 50th birthday, including an international media conference this week. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI  

By DAVE OPIYO

The Nation Media Group will begin a series of activities on Monday to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of what has become the largest media group in East and Central Africa.

The centrepiece of the Golden Jubilee is the Pan African Media Conference on Thursday and Friday at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

President Kibaki will officially open the event that is expected to bring together more than 1,000 people, including media professionals and scholars, under the theme Media and the African Promise.

The gathering, held in collaboration with the African Media Initiative, will present participants with the opportunity to reflect on the history of the media in Africa as well as on its present and future prospects.

Participants will explore issues such as the advent of citizen journalism where audiences generate and publish information using popular online platforms and new media such as SMS, MMS, MySpace, Facebook and YouTube.

They will also discuss the role of media and civil society in confronting Africa’s challenges in governance and democracy, the emergence of a global media culture, reporting change and crisis in Africa, and saving the African environment.

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One of the pre-conference events will be the presentation of reports on a proposed Africa-wide health reporting network at a reception at the Serena Hotel.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, as well as former presidents Joachim Chissano (Mozambique), Thabo Mbeki (South Africa) and Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania) are expected to address the conference.

Nation Media Group founder the Aga Khan will speak on the birth and growth of the media house whose history is intertwined with that of the Kenyan nation and on his thoughts on modern journalism and the future of the media in Africa.

Media conference

Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union Jean Ping, Kenyan Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, Mohamed Ibrahim, British mobile communications entrepreneur and founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Unep executive director Achim Steiner and Dr Hussein Amin, former chair of the journalism school at the American University in Cairo, are among those expected to attend the media conference.

Founded in 1959 with the purchase of Taifa Leo, the newspaper organisation that was to become NMG is the leading multimedia house in the region with print, radio, television and electronic platforms.

In Kenya, Nation Newspapers Division publishes daily and weekend editions of Nation, the Kiswahili daily Taifa Leo, The East African, a regional weekly, and Business Daily. Nation Broadcasting Division runs NTV, Easy FM, QFM and NTV Uganda.

In Uganda, Monitor Publications Ltd, a subsidiary of NMG started in 1992, publishes the Daily Monitor and Sunday Monitor and runs FM radio station KFM 93.3.

Mwananchi Communications Ltd (MCL) in Tanzania publishes the Kiswahili newspapers Mwananchi and Mwana Spoti.

In September 2004, MCL launched an English daily The Citizen.

NMG’s Chief Executive Officer Linus Gitahi said the conference is meant to be the “most stimulating and enjoyable event on the African continent”.

He said it would offer an opportunity to reflect on the media’s future in an increasingly globalised environment.

The forum, he said in a statement published on the conference website www.panafricamedia2010kenya.com, would encourage lively discussions and “forward-thinking” contributions, which would lead to the development of robust African media policies.

It will encourage contribution to and development of robust policy related to the operation and development of media in Africa, said Mr Gitahi, who is also the conference’s co-convenor.

Media role

“The role of the media is critical to good governance and the solidarity of Africa. Let us engage to make Africa one of the best continents worldwide,” he added.

Diamond Trust Bank is the lead sponsor of the conference. Other sponsors are Kenya Airways, Kenya Data Network, Uchumi Quick Supplies and X and R Technologies.

NMG editorial director Joseph Odindo said that to mark the celebrations, the company had produced several publications to give readers an insight into the evolution of the group.

“We have prepared a 17-page pullout on the company to be inserted in Thursday’s paper, another glossy souvenir coffee table book and another book, Birth of a Nation, that tells the history of the Nation in Kenya,” he said.

“These publications capture great moments in the country and feature big stories that have been published in our outlets and the people who have made the work a success,” he said.