The Significance of Alternative Media in Hiv/Aids Communication: Hiv/Aids Coverage in Two Mainstream Newspapers and A Case of an Alternative Newspaper

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Addis Ababa University


Many media researchers doubt the role of the mainstream media as genuine instrument of communication for the poor. The dictates of market mechanism and the interests of economic and political powers are counted as major factors that obstruct the duty of the media in serving the real needs of the society at large. The standards of news reporting that are rooted in commercial and professional journalism are regarded as instruments that marginalize important social issues such as HIV/AIDS. The craving of the media for prominence and to be authoritative sources tends to deny voice to ordinary citizens who constitute the largest portion of the society. To address the communication needs of the society at grassroots level scholars emphasize the significance of alternative media. In order to test the validity of the doubt regarding the mainstream media and the significance attached to alternative media this study investigated two mainstream newspapers Addis Zemen and medical as well as an alternative newspaper Libona. The main research questions of the study inquire whether the two conventional papers marginalize HIV/AIDS and people living with HIV/AIDS. The significance of Libona in HIV/AIDS coverage was also examined. The study employed content analysis, which included identifying materials on HIV/AIDS, genres, specific themes, types of news and information sources. Three coders, who participated in doing the job, were in agreement on 87 percent of their coding. 8 The findings indicated that the sample issues of Addis Zemen devoted 2.41 per cent of their total area to materials on HIV/AIDS. Sports and entertainment covered a wider space. The paper is biased to wards authoritative sources. These groups constituted 71.3 percent of the sources. PLWHA and ordinary citizens represented only 7.7 and 9 per cent respectively. They appeared to be marginalized. Sample issues of Medical newspaper devoted 4.95 per cent to HIV/AIDS. The sources are 67.3 per cent professionals and scientists. Out of 19 HIV/AIDS stories printed in 13 issues only two were local. The papers coverage of the issue appeared to be inadequate in terms of quantity and quality. Libona, which is fully devoted to HIV/AIDS, promotes Dawn of Hope Ethiopia Association and PLWHA. It reflects the perspectives of ordinary people. Horizontal and bottom communication appears real in the paper. However the participation of PLWHA in expressing views in Libona is motivated by financial rewards. The paper is supported by donors funding. Inability to sustain itself shadows its significance in HIV/AIDS communication. Libona, as an alternative newspaper, could play more significant role if it encourage free participation of PLWHA in communication. Addis Zemen and Medical should improve their coverage of HIV/AIDS by entertaining the ideas of ordinary citizens and PLWHA. Their reporting on the issue should reflect the seriousness of pandemic.



Media in Hiv/Aids Communication