Brown envelope journalism in Africa


Introductory text:
by Sarah Bomkapre Kamara

The programme ends with the keynote address as the main highlight. Whilst everyone is leaving the hall and chatting, journalists line-up in front of a table or stand waiting for the Public Relations Officer of the organizers. It is the last ritual before they leave. This is a moment money is shared. 

A familiar scene in many countries in Africa. Brown envelop journalism is slowly polluting the ethical minds of journalists in many African countries. This practice I believe has the potential to water down not only ethics but objective journalism practice on the continent. Scholars have over the past few years turned their spotlight on the study of this practice in the media in Africa.

The 2010 edition of the African Communication Research, a peer reviewed journal published by the St. Augustine University of Tanzania dedicated a whole chapter on Bribery and corruption in the African media. Several theories were opined on what constitutes brown envelop journalism and what has kept the practice alive in many African countries. You want to know what it is? Read the following article by our own Terje Skjerdal.  Gives an interesting academic insight on the practice.

Review article

Research on brown envelope journalism
in the African media

By Terje S. Skjerdal

This article gives an overview of past and contemporary research on the “brown envelope” phenomenon in African journalism and documents local terminology and appropriation. The research literature on the phenomenon is growing, coinciding with the alleged increase of informal incentives in African journalism practice. The article discusses how the research tradition has invariably interpreted brown envelope journalism in light of the professional and societal atmosphere. It is argued that the research body has clustered around four main topics: documentation of brown envelope journalism; consideration of the impact of poor economic conditions; analysis of the political and social influence; and discussion of ethical and professional concerns. Three directions for further research are suggested, encouraging further empirical, anthropological and philosophical studies on brown envelope practices with the view to interrogate the phenomenon as an exemplar of wider professional and ethical issues.

 See full article and publication here

 capture_TerjeDr. Terje Skjerdal is an associate professor at the Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication, Kristiansand, Norway and Adjunct Lecturer at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. His research focuses on Ethiopian and Somali Journalism cultures and on professional conflicts in Ethiopian journalism.

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