World Press Freedom Day on May 3 is commemorated annually to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
However despite efforts to avoid danger, investigative and critical
African journalists continue to suffer threats of harassment and
intimidation by drug cartels, war lords and government security
In Africa during the year 2013 an estimated 65 journalists, editors,
publishers or citizen journalists/bloggers were either imprisoned or killed in the exercise of their profession and the practice of their fundamental human right of freedom of speech.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recalls how pressuring journalists to shape news coverage in the name of patriotism and unity is not new in Africa. After a decade of unprecedented economic growth and infrastructure development on the continent, the stakes are higher than ever.
CPJ’s Attacks on the Press showcases some of the worst offenders against press freedom in Africa, namely:
* Gambia: 144 Hours of detention
* Zimbabwe: 186 Radios confiscated
* Ethiopia: 70 News and opinion websites blocked
* DRC: 69 Anti-press attacks
* Guinea: 51 Anti-press attacks
* Nigeria: 11th Impunity Index ranking
* Tanzania: 22 Threats and attacks
* Somalia: 2nd Impunity ranking
* Zambia: 7 Cases against the press
* Uganda: 7 Days police ignored court order
* Burundi: 5 Years in jail
* Swaziland: 2 Broadcasting bills passed
The full report is available on the CPJ website.
Reporters without Borders (RSF) released the 2014 World Press Freedom Index which spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists.
The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies.
In Africa, the two most noteworthy falls, by Mali and Central African Republic, were due to armed conflicts. In Burundi, where a presidential election is imminent, the senate passed a law restricting the freedom of journalists.
In Kenya (90th, -18), the government’s much criticized authoritarian response to the media’s coverage of the Westgate Mall attacks was compounded by dangerous parliamentary initiatives, above all a law adopted at the end of 2013 creating a special court to judge audiovisual content.
In Morocco, unchanged in 136th position, the authorities readily confused journalism with terrorism since the case of online newspaper editor Ali Anouzla.
Non-state groups constitute the main source of physical danger for journalists in a number of countries. The militias fomenting chaos in the new Libya (137th, -5) and Yemeni armed groups linked to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are leading examples of this privatization of violence.
Al-Shabaab in Somalia (176th, unchanged) and the M23 movement in Democratic Republic of Congo (151st, -8) both regard journalists as enemies.
In Guinea (102nd, -15), journalists found it dangerous and difficult
to work during elections marked by many protests. Several journalists were attacked or injured by over-excited demonstrators or by members of the security forces dispersing the protests.
Zambia (93rd, -20), which had progressed in recent years, was dragged down by measures to censor and block news websites. Finally, rulers who have clung to power for years and fear change got tougher with the media, resulting in abusive prosecutions in Chad (139th, -17) and several closures in Cameroon (131st, -10).
More details on Africa in RSF’s 2014 Press Freedom Index.
3rd May 2014 also marks twenty three years since the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic Media.
To this end, the Right2Know Campaign and SOS Coalition in South Africa will mark World Press Freedom Day with a protest against censorship on Friday 2 May 2014, from 11h00 – 13h00 outside the SABC offices in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
World Press Freedom Day is important to observe because much of the South African and African media more generally, are increasingly coming under physical, political and ideological attack and pressure from both governments and powerful corporate interests.
R2K notes a free and diverse media is critical to promoting transparency, accountability and the freedom of expression that are vital to a democracy that meets the needs of its people.
Within the FAIR network, there are a core handful of really courageous African investigative journalists, some of whom have, through their reporting, shifted the entire political landscape of our country.
In South Africa, if not for the investigative efforts of wa Afrika and his colleagues, General Bheki Cele would most likely still be South Africa’s Police Commissioner: just a small example of the societal value of a brave and determined journalist. If it had not been for the efforts of the AmaBhungane team, the Nkandla files would most likely never have made it into the public eye.
Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, FAIR is proud to launch the
UNDERCOVER GUIDE for investigative journalists authored by Ghana’s Anas Aremeyaw Anas, undercover reporter/lawyer.
Anas has been the champion of undercover investigative journalism across this continent—whereby he has unearthed the biggest scandals in Ghana and outside his country. Though some have questioned his methods of investigative journalism—citing ethical issues—the most important thing is that at the end he has served the public interests at a great deal.
Anas says “undercover is one of the means of doing our jobs as
journalists but it is a slippery and dangerous road which must only be followed after all due precautions have been taken. This guide should spur you on to read and learn more.”
Download the UNDERCOVER GUIDE (pdf)