Clinton perceived well in trip to Africa

Friday, August 14, 2009 | 11:42 a.m. CDT; updated 4:39 p.m. CDT, Friday, August 14, 2009

Stuart Loory, Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies, Missouri School of Journalism: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is winding up an 11-day, seven-nation visit to Africa, during which she competed with news involving her husband President Bill Clinton’s trip to North Korea to free two North American journalists. One of Hillary Clinton’s themes was doing away with corruption, another was installing democratic processes and a third was human rights for women and minorities. Finally, she talked of doing away with hunger and poverty in Africa. She began her official visit in Kenya, where she had a tough message about doing away with corruption and about operating without impunity.

How was her visit viewed in Nairobi?

George Nyabuga, managing editor, Media Convergence, Standard Media Group, Nairobi, Kenya: I think she was able to achieve quite a bit. According to media reports, she was very tough and told Kenyan leaders in no uncertain terms that they have to deal with corruption, they have to deal with impunity and they have to promote competent political leadership. As a diplomat, she was able to achieve quite a lot, and there was a statement from the political leadership in the direction that she wanted.

Loory: What were the results of her trip in other places in Africa?

Jean-Jacques Cornish, correspondent, Eye Witness News, Pretoria, South Africa: In South Africa, the outcome was better than we had dared hope for. There was a real meeting of minds between Hillary Clinton and Maite Nikoana-Mashabane, the new foreign minister. Clinton certainly excelled as a speaker, picking up on themes that others lay down. She seemed to speak off the cuff every time and did enormously well. Moving on to Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she was particularly exercised about the issue of rape and somewhat tougher in terms of their human rights programs. She met DRC President Joseph Kabila and urged him to do what he could to end the rape of thousands upon thousands of women both by government soldiers and rebels. Clinton was also tough in Nigeria on getting good governance and demanding elections. Today she is in Liberia where she will give support to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has been asked to step down by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission because she was too close to the previous regime during the civil wars.

Loory: How is this visit being viewed generally by the press, not only in Africa, but also in other places around the world?

Tala Dowlatshahi, senior adviser, Reporters Without Borders, New York: I believe that people are hopeful that the Secretary of State will make an impact in Africa, but journalists are generally a bit less optimistic than Cornish indicated about her presence in South Africa. Governments, including the DRC, carry out nationwide censorship to block foreign press, a lot of it around presidential elections and polling booths. In various African countries, journalists are muzzled because the press, particularly the foreign press, is seen as a threat to Western aid money by exposing corruption. The Secretary of State is looking to introduce a bipartisan bill that will develop a freedom of press unit within the State Department that will address the international situation of press freedom.

Loory: Does the United States do enough to deal with journalists who are in trouble around the world?

Dowlatshahi: The United States does not do anything to ensure the protection of reporters from all over the world, though they do look after Americans. A lot of these journalists, especially Americans in conflict zones, are used as pawns in a game like the North Korean situation, which is unfortunate because these journalists are members of civil society. They should be ensured the protections under Article Nineteen and also the international laws that should guarantee their safety, but don’t. Unlike the previous administration that through the Patriot Act had a very draconian policy and was heading toward the direction of beginning to muzzle the press, this administration is taking a different step and that is a hopeful sign for our organization.

Loory: Is that the case in Washington?

Don Kirk, Korean correspondent, Christian Science Monitor, Washington: I’m not sure the U.S. had anything like a draconian policy toward journalists held elsewhere. In the case of Jill Carroll, a Christian Science Monitor correspondent who was held captive in Iraq and finally won freedom due to the efforts of the Monitor, as much as that of the U.S. government. Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the Current TV journalists who were held for 140 days in North Korea, have both said that they think more should be done for journalists held elsewhere. That is quite true. Just what the United States can do though, in intervening in the case of journalists from other countries held in other countries, is another matter. You get into the whole question of interference and what is the role of a huge country such as the United States in helping journalists from other countries. I would not say that U.S. policy has significantly changed as far as that is concerned.

Loory: Was Hillary Clinton upstaged by her husband when he went to North Korea? What was the impact on coverage of her trip to Africa?

Kirk: For a couple of days Hillary Clinton was completely upstaged. The big story of course was Bill Clinton, the knight in shining armor, swooping down and picking up two damsels in distress. It was a great story. It did leave Hillary Clinton’s trip very much a secondary story.

Cornish: The Secretary of State’s visit to Africa was a major story for us in South Africa, carried in every radio bulletin and in the newspapers every day. Her intention of showing that Africa has not moved to the back burner under the Obama administration has been successful.

Loory: How does the United States’ oil interest in Nigeria impact the United States’ attitude towards corruption and human rights abuses?

Cornish: Hillary Clinton called for presidential elections in Angola, another top oil-producing nation in Africa, which have been delayed, and she called for greater democratization in Nigeria.

Loory: Are the South Koreans unhappy because the United States is having more of an impact with its dealings with North Korea than the South Korean government is?

Kirk: Just today North Korea released a Hyundai-Asan engineer who had been detained for 137 days, hopefully diminishing confrontation between North and South Korea. But South Koreans are now asking about 1,000 other South Koreans who have been held in North Korea for varying lengths of time. What is going to happen to them? Will they ever come home? Some people are saying Laura Ling, Euna Lee and the Hyundai-Asan engineer are all privileged people. What about all the others? That is a lingering question that really bothers South Koreans a great deal. Of course nobody resents the return of the two American journalists and nobody resents the return of the Hyundai engineer, yet South Koreans resent the fact that nobody is really speaking up strongly for the 1,000 other South Koreans that have been held for a long time in North Korea. What is the U.S. really saying about them? What is the U.S. saying or doing about the human rights situation overall in North Korea?

Loory: Would you expect that Secretary of State Clinton is going to start paying more attention to the North Korean situation?

Kirk: She might pay more attention to North Korea but I doubt that she will be speaking up for the 1,000 South Koreans held in North Korea. I think her focus will be on jump-starting six party talks with North Korea, which they have not agreed to. China appears to want North Korea to get back to the table so it will be very interesting to see whether that happens.

Loory: Now we’re going to wait and see whether Secretary of State Clinton really does become as good a diplomat as she was a politician.

Producers of Global Journalist are Missouri School of Journalism graduate students Jared Gassen, Geoff George, Brian Jarvis and Liz Lance. The transcriber is Pat Kelley.




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