Afrinik
Ear of Africa

Africa: press freedom confiscated!

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How to talk about democracy in a country where the press is muzzled? With some exceptions that do not even fill the fingers of one hand, the African press is sorely lacking in freedom.

In his article, Mauriac AHOUANGANSI , exposes at least 4 reasons that explain the lack of freedom of the press in Africa: Sometimes, it is the legislative framework which restricts the activities of press; then there is the fear of corrupt leaders to see their villainous activities denounced by the media and which is being pressured; Add to this the financial dependence of the media which with small means must rely on the public funds which limits their field of action; Finally, note that the low salaries of journalists force them to yield to parallel salaries that sign the end of their free pen!

The 2018 edition of Reporters Without Borders has highlighted a very mixed picture of press freedom in Africa. While countries such as Ghana, Namibia and South Africa and a few others have laudable scores, the rest of the continent is still marked by a loose press. This observation remains the same as in recent years. What encloses so much the freedom of the press in Africa?

Legislative restrictions

Freedom of the press is one of the principles inherent in democracy. Its absence or limitation would therefore be likely to jeopardize the democratic equilibrium. This undesirable situation is the constant in the continent. Most worrying is that in some countries, the freedom of the press is restricted by laws that aim to dissuade journalists from having dissenting positions from those advocated by the ruling power. Some laws, especially those of religious sources, even include death sentences to punish press offenses and the like. For example, in Mauritania, blogger Mohamed Ould Cheikh M’Kheitir was sentenced to death in 2014 for apostasy because of an article published on his blog.

Legislation also includes offenses free of interpretations such as “offenses to the Head of State” severely sanctioned. Two agents of the daily Newsday accused of “insulting the president” in 2016 are still awaiting trial in Zimbabwe. These legislative provisions aim to inhibit critical thinking among journalists or to rally them. In Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire and Benin, legislative initiatives have recently been taken to restrict freedom of expression in the digital space.

Bad political governance

The press, in several democracies, is set up as an institution of counter-power. In this paradigm, freedom of the press is, among other things, a weapon against corruption and misappropriation. It offers people access to information on the state of their country and on the management of public affairs; This allows civil society organizations or sometimes justice to challenge the different actors according to the power of action available to them. However, the state of good governance leaves something to be desired on the continent according to the good governance index of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation which reveals an average score of 50.8/100 for the year 2017. Governments, aware sometimes they muzzle the press to have the discretion necessary to engage in unorthodox acts of governance. In Guinea, President Alpha Cond√© threatened to close all the media that would not treat the teachers’ strike that began in November 2017 as a rebellion. It is also this impetus that led Eritrea to arrest and imprison journalist Dawit Isaak and several people since 2001 for alluding to the authoritarian excesses of the regime. Today almost all media belong to the regime according to Reporters Without Borders, which ranks Eritrea next to the press for freedom. It is also this impetus that led Eritrea to arrest and imprison journalist Dawit Isaak and several people since 2001 for alluding to the authoritarian excesses of the regime. Today almost all media belong to the regime according to Reporters Without Borders, which ranks Eritrea next to the press for freedom. It is also this impetus that led Eritrea to arrest and imprison journalist Dawit Isaak and several people since 2001 for alluding to the authoritarian excesses of the regime. Today almost all media belong to the regime according to Reporters Without Borders, which ranks Eritrea next to the press for freedom.

Financial dependence

The media, like any business, have financial needs whose satisfaction determines their longevity. They are therefore generally subject to two types of pressure. On the one hand, the public media that is dependent on subsidies has become a vector of propaganda for governments and their leaders. On the other hand, private media serve as platforms for special interest groups. Private media are either under pressure from politicians who fund them by paying benefits; or they receive tendentious injunctions from shareholders who themselves are politicians or lobbyists. This last case does not spare the countries that are relatively well housed in the ranking of Reporters Without Borders. In July 2016, eight journalists from the South African Broadcasting Corporation in South Africa were fired for protesting the interference of their bosses. In addition, advertising is used as a means of pressure to call to order the media that tend to be too critical of the authorities. For having demonstrated against a new mandate of President Bouteflika, Hadda Hazem saw the Algerian daily El Fadjr, being deprived of public advertisements by the National Agency for Publishing and Advertising (Anep). This financial dependence pushes journalists to self-censorship. For having demonstrated against a new mandate of President Bouteflika, Hadda Hazem saw the Algerian daily El Fadjr, being deprived of public advertisements by the National Agency for Publishing and Advertising (Anep). This financial dependence pushes journalists to self-censorship. For having demonstrated against a new mandate of President Bouteflika, Hadda Hazem saw the Algerian daily El Fadjr, being deprived of public advertisements by the National Agency for Publishing and Advertising (Anep). This financial dependence pushes journalists to self-censorship.

The lack of professionalism

The professions of the press like any profession, have a certain deontology. If governments are often criticized when it comes to addressing the issue of freedom of the press, the responsibility of journalists should not be ignored. Indeed, the latter sometimes have little regard for the deontology that governs their profession. This results in cases of retention of information in gift exchanges. Thus, between professional conscience and greed, the credibility of the press is compromised by a few. In 2014 the staff of the Office of Radio and Television of Benin had sent a letter to the Management to denounce the professional misconduct of a colleague about a partisan report and out of step with the reality observed in the field. Of course the morality of some professionals is to question, but the training within the institutes of journalism is not in rest of the causes of the phenomenon. Admittedly, the institutes exist and even flourish, but the contents of their formations remain debatable.

Moreover, freedom of the press in Africa seems fragile in view of the many and various difficulties that overwhelm it. Releasing the press in relation to all legal and financial dependencies is unavoidable so that it can serve as a counter-power, a sine qua non for true democracy.

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