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A Zimbabwe-born journalist wants the Japanese media to broaden its perspective and interest in African issues and be more balanced in its coverage. To help achieve this goal, he’s calling for the establishment of an African news agency in Tokyo.

“Africans themselves have come up with an idea to establish a news office in Tokyo to raise the newsworthy level of Africa” in local coverage in an effort to dispel entrenched misconceptions, Roderick Ngoro said last week at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

Ngoro, a media-studies graduate student at Rhodes University in South Africa, said such an office could have a big impact, given the Japanese media’s reliance on Western sources for African news, its limited knowledge of Africa and its focus on other pressing international issues.

Japanese media lack balance when writing about African issues, he said, because of “the strictures” of the press-club system.

“How can such news (without direct access to African officials themselves) be reliable?” he asked, noting how after a meeting between African and Japanese officials in Tokyo, the local media is briefed only by the Japanese officials and does not attempt to get comments from the African side.

He also called on Japan’s media to broaden its scope and not just concentrate on negative issues, including poverty, conflicts, disasters and AIDS.

While admitting that African diplomats have not done their share of disseminating African news of interest to the local media, Ngoro said this was due in part to a “feeling of inadequacy” they have due to the negligible position Africa has in Japan’s media.

Ngoro also lashed out at the poor coverage of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, saying he found the Japanese media were not interested in the meeting because they believed the government would only attend to try to win African support for Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Ngoro received the FCCJ Swadesh DeRoy Memorial Scholarship last year. The scholarship supports students researching media-related subjects involving Japan.

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