With free, quality media and freedom of expression under attack from just about every corner of African reality, it becomes more and more obvious that a concentrated, Africa-wide effort is needed to help the fight. Free African Media aims to be just that. The publication will function as a platform dedicated to freedom of expression throughout the continent, as well to helping improve the overall quality of reporting, analysis and opinion Africa-wide. We are anticipating that Free African Media's month-long trial will prove so successful that we'll be able to make it a permanent project.
While the “free” in Free African Media primarily refers to the concept of freedom, it also means you can read all our content with no payment required. You'll need to register to submit comments, but this won't cost you a thing – other than a few seconds of your time.
We, the media, need to know and we need to talk. Often we forget to apply to our selves the very basic reason we exist in our own countries: to inform people, to get them to think, to make their lives better, to help them make connections between the events and people. Somehow, we forget that we also need be informed, motivated, inspired or awed by someone's courage and craft, or become better journalist just by knowing what others like us are doing. The time is ripe for a concept like Free African Media to assume a central role in the continent-wide effort to defend and improve free media organisations, be they print, broadcast or online.
Free African Media will be the one place where every media person from Africa's 54 countries can come and have access to thinkers and reporters from the rest of the continent. Free African Media will be the platform for exchanging ideas and the place to plan new efforts. The place where journalists feel at home; the place they want to come back every day. The place where none of us need to feel alone.
Free African Media doesn't have terms of service or an acceptable use policy or a service-level agreement. These are our promises to you, and what we expect from you in return.
Give us a tiny slice of your time and we'll give you unrivalled analysis, insight and opinion relating to media in Africa.
Free African Media exists to provide the journalists – and citizens – of Africa with the analysis, insight and opinion that they need. Whether you're a journalist on the front line in protecting freedom of expression, or a layperson who believes in your right to know what's happening in your country, we'll provide the tools.
Here's another promise: we won't ever waste your time. We don't let algorithms decide what is important and what is not. Our journalists and editors are humans, and some of the best and most experienced ones around at that. They've spent decades refining the craft and we think they're pretty good at it.
Our website won't pretend to talk about media freedom in Africa from an unbiased perspective – because there's no such thing. We passionately believe in freedom of expression, and Free African Media is about ensuring this ideal becomes a reality. What we can promise, is that we won't neglect to criticise the media, when it is due.
With freedom, comes responsibility, and using the media to promulgate propaganda or hate speech isn't something we tolerate. Neither are brown paper envelopes or sloppy reporting that's short on facts. And when any of these things happen, you can be sure we'll write about them. Part of Free African Media's mission is to critically examine African media – what are the problems, and how can we fix them? We all live under the African sun, but say no to sunshine journalism.
And, although Free African Media has a self-evident agenda, this doesn't mean we won't be acting with the greatest of integrity. Nobody will ever pay for our opinions, no matter the size of the cheque book. We will never sell your private information, or let somebody else dictate our interests, or conspire behind your back.
You, the journalists and readers of Africa, are the centre of our universe.
If you want a one-way connection, with us sitting on the other side of your screen working day and night to keep you informed, then that's all you really need to know. But if you want to engage, talk back – and we very much hope that you do – then we'll expect a little more from you.
For starters, we expect you to call us out when we screw up, as we inevitably will. We expect you to tip us off to important stuff we might otherwise not know about. We expect you to participate, and share your wisdom and insight with us and with other readers. If you choose to do that – and this is where you need to take some time to consider the consequences – then we expect you to do so using your real name. We're great fans of online anonymity and the benefits it can bring, but reader comments are not the place for it. Anonymity does not breed thoughtful, civilised debate. Real names make for a real community.
Other than that the only rules are those of polite society everywhere. We won't accept hate speech, for instance, and if you engage in any you may find that your comments have disappeared, been disemvoweled, or otherwise disrupted. Think of our moderators as benign bouncers; you'll never know they're there unless you cross the line in a determined fashion.?We realise that this requires a lot of trust, more than you would normally invest in a website. Why should you trust us? Stick around and let us show you. We believe trust can only be earned – and we believe we can earn yours.
Most of our contributors write under their real names, but a few have chosen to use pen names, and we accept that. When a writer uses a pen name, this is clearly indicated at the end of the story. Some of our writers face a very real risk to their personal safety should they chose to reveal their real names, and in this case it makes sense to adopt a pseudonym. This is for their own protection, and will enable our journalists can keep bringing you stories about media freedom in Africa without fearing retribution.
Privacy: We're not evil
We will not give your e-mail address to anybody, ever, unless they carry guns and produce a valid court order. Some of our e-mail is sent by third-party providers (who have the servers and systems to do so quickly and efficiently); these providers are highly professional companies that comply with stringent requirements for privacy and security on the lists that we give to them. Also, we know where they live.
We require you to provide your real name in order to leave comments on the site and interact with other readers. We also track reader habits; how long an individual spends on the site in a session, whether readers like both politics and entertainment articles, for example. We do not, however, put the two together.
For statistics and analysis we use the standard Nielsen-Netratings and Google Analytics services, like just about any other respectable website in the world. This general data we analyse ourselves (to see what works, where people go, what they read, that kind of thing) and we share some data with our advertisers, so they know how many readers we have in Iceland, for example. But the data that we share is generic, overall, and in no way allows for the identification of any reader.
When you sign up to receive e-mail from us, or to comment on the site, we ask you for certain personal details: a telephone number, the city in which you live, and so on. This information is optional. If you do provide it, it may make it easier for us to reach you (to tell you how awesome you are, perhaps) or to provide you with new and exciting services (like weather information for your home town). Again, this information is not shared with anyone outside The Daily Maverick.
Likewise, we use technology such as cookies, image tracking in e-mail and other forms of monitoring to help us understand reader needs and optimise the website. All of these techniques are stock standard and all data gathered is only shared with outsiders once we are satisfied that it can not be abused.
Look, unless you wear a tinfoil hat to bed every single night, chances are that we are more paranoid about your privacy than you are, okay?
History: Serving African media
Free African Media is a sister company of The Daily Maverick, which is run by an independently owned, private company with no affiliation to any other media group (or political party or religious organisation). Launched in February 2011, Free African Media it is currently undergoing a one-month trial period.
We firmly believe that the mission and the success of any publication depends on the quality of the articles published, the seriousness of the editorial team's dedication to freedom of expression and media quality and the support by a well-established network of contributors and supporters.
The thinking and design behind the Free African Media draws heavily from the philosophy and experience gained by the Daily Maverick team over the years. Now, it's time to share this experience with journalists around Africa – and we look forward to learning just as much from them as they do from us.