The power of talk: Media and accountability in three African countries. Policy Briefing 12


This policy briefing draws on BBC Media Action’s experience of delivering A National Conversation, a five-year media support project in Angola, Sierra Leone and Tanzania.

Its purpose was to work with a diverse set of media organisations to encourage improved transparency, accountability and participation. The briefing describes both the successes and challenges confronted by the project and the learnings from it. It argues that the media’s role as a force for accountability - especially in fragile states or emerging democracies - is complex and the most effective strategies tend to be those which are grounded in the cultural and political contexts of the countries concerned.

It also draws on quantitative and qualitative research from A National Conversation in order to shed light on some of the political realities that surround media as an institution that helps to hold those in power to account:

  • Improving political freedom and openness is an indispensable component for improving transparency and accountability, but strategies that focus only on an oppositional or confrontational role of media in society are insufficient and can miss other key roles the media can play in fostering more effective state-society relationships.
  • Through our work in Angola, Sierra Leone and Tanzania, we found that working with the media to create trustworthy spaces that brought disparate groups together to discuss, mediate and collectively problem-solve – especially at the local level– often proved the most constructive mechanism for engaging governments and citizens alike.
  • The paper thus underscores the need for locally embedded approaches to governance support that are both adaptive and reflective.


Stringer, R. The power of talk: Media and accountability in three African countries. Policy Briefing 12. BBC Media Action, London, UK (2014) 24 pp.

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