1. An Anti-Communist Newspaper

By Alex White (@alex_j_white)

The first issue of Jours d’Afrique [‘African Days’] hails itself as ‘a new newspaper for a new era’. [1] This is a fair claim: the journal was published in January 1961, only months after the decolonisation of French Equatorial Africa. Grainy photographs of new presidents stare down from the front page and articles inside discuss the promises and challenges of independence. [2] Its benign appearance, however, is intentionally misleading. As a letter to the British Colonial Office reveals, Jours d’Afrique was not an independent publication but a secret production of the French government – a direct form of anti-communist propaganda for distribution across their former colonies in central Africa. [3]

The aim of the first issue, according to its publisher, was to establish the newspaper as a credible source so that anti-communist propaganda could be gradually added to later editions. Nevertheless, its political biases are already evident. Jours d’Afrique praises the moderate Brazzaville Conference for their aims of ‘work and cooperation’ while darkly suggesting the more left-wing Casablanca Conference’s aims ‘were entirely different’. [4] Discussing the Soviet Union, it claims that Africans had made it clear they would be ‘neither clients nor satellites’ but also praises the French President Charles De Gaulle and makes claims about the ‘confidence that [Africans] have always had’ in colonial government. [5]

At the same time, however, the newspaper repeatedly calls for ‘close ties of friendship between the editorial team and readers’. [6] Informing readers that the newspaper was ‘above all, yours’, it asks for letters, stories, and photographs from its audience – even offering free subscriptions for high-quality entries. [7] These exchanges may have allowed French government to track gather information and track public opinion outside of its own borders. However, they also helped to create meaningful social interactions between French editors and African readers – a more personal form of propaganda which had the potential to perpetuate influence long after the end of colonial rule.

Cover Image: Front page of Jours d’Afrique no. 1, author’s own photograph.

[1] ‘Pour une ère nouvelle, un journal nouveau’, Jours d’Afrique, p. 1, insert in British National Archives, Colonial Office Files (CO) 1027/382.

[2] Ibid, pp. 1, 3, 8.

[3] Burrows to Morris, 14.2.1961, CO 1027/382.

[4] ‘de travail et de cooperation’, ‘étaient tout autres’, Jours d’Afrique, 24.1.1961, p. 3.

[5] ‘ni des «clients» ni des satellites’, ‘la confiance qu’ils ont toujours eue’, ibid, pp. 3, 4.

[6] ‘liens étroits d’amitié entre l’équipe rédactionelle et les lecteurs’, ibid, p. 1.

[7] ‘avant tout le vôtre’, ibid p. 1.

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