A change of culture premised on honesty, independence, courage and truth is vital if sports journalists are to overcome the weight of under-funding and influence of governments to report objectively on governance in sport.
Sport journalism is currently under threat from governments, politicians and global corporations influencing news selection and setting the agenda.
The precarious working conditions in developing countries also provide fertile conditions for gifts and inducements while the high dependence of media on public funding has further curtailed media freedoms.
However, Karugor Gatamah, an expert on corporate governance from the Institute of Directors Kenya believes with the right choices and character sports journalists can forge a new path.
“The essence of good governance is about making the right choices, managing future from the present and exceeding ethical leadership,” he said.
“We have a saying that the freedom tree is watered by the blood of those with courage. It won’t be a rosy war but we have to sacrifice. It’s on us to create funding to hold forums independent of government.
“The vested interests of government are such that they don’t want independent journalists. Once you become independent even that state that sees you as an enemy.”
AIPS president Gianni Merlo called on national associations to become credible and create avenues for funding in their bid to become independent.
“It’s our credibility that we have to build. If we are press officers for ministers then we are not respecting the profession. Our national associations have to be organised. AIPS cannot exist if national associations are not organised. The society has changed and we have to change with it because sport is part of the society, it’s a culture and for that reason we have to invest in our culture.”
Merlo said his heart bleeds that the world of sport is under threat from doping, cheating and corruption.
“The world of sport is in big danger. Corruption and manipulation of results is a danger to sport and we have to find a solution. Sport is one of the biggest industries in the world and if the public see that results of sport are manipulated, the public will leave sport and millions of people will lose their jobs. Our job is not to report on results alone but also to educate.”
The call for solidarity and the goal of gender equality also came up for discussion amid calls for equal opportunities for women in the governance of sport.
At the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) Africa congress only two associations out of 27 that were represented sent women to the congress.
AIPS has 43 African members.
Merlo has previously called for a quota system to be imposed to allow women greater participation but it has not been adopted amid resistance that women should fight on an equal footing with men.
“I must say I see new faces and I hope Africa will invest in the new generation, invest in women. We need the balance of women. I still stand by my conviction that sometimes we need to be compelled and then we take it from there.”
AIPS vice president Evelyn Watta said “We can’t allow quotas. I know very strong women in sport. They are people who even inspire me so let’s get them to attend.”
Delivering the keynote address, Kenya Sports Permanent Secretary Kirimi Kaberia urged journalists to keep governments on their toes.
He said there was a challenge that African athletes are given prominence when they will win overseas but not given enough coverage in their own country.
Closing the session, Gatamah’s last words were telling “let us not be remembered for practicing journalism for a living but journalism with a difference.”