september 20, 2012

Press Freedom on the African Continent

A free press is considered crucial in building a strong democracy. If journalists are not allowed to collect and present opinions freely, how can true discussion ever come about? A critical press driven by debate is a cornerstone of emancipation. While in most African countries there is a broad selection of papers and radio stations to choose from, governments pressure journalists and press owners to shape the content. Working independently as a journalist can get you arrested, tortured and even killed. Underneath is a map of the Africa Liberal Network, a major advocate for liberal freedoms on the continent; it shows the situation as of 2012. On their website you can find an interactive copy showing rank and score of each country.

Amnesty International, the world's biggest advocate of human rights, listed the major crackdowns on African journalism in Amnesty In Actie ('Amnesty In Action') - the magazine for their Belgian members. A short but shocking selection:

Gambia : Ebrima Manneh, journalist for the Daily Observer, was arrested in 2006. He has been missing ever since. Court ruled recently that he was to be released and his family to be compensated. This ruling has been ignored by the authorities. That various papers had their websites hacked or have been closed down doesn't give much hope either.

Somalia : In 2011, three prominent figures of independent press have been assassinated. Among them was Abukar Hasan Mohamud Kadaf, former director of the independent radio station Somaliweyn. Since 2006 already 27 reporters have been killed. So far, none of these murders came before court.

Malawi : A new law gives the Minister of Information (oh yes, definitely need one of those) the power to forbid a publication if it should be 'in conflict with the common good'. Of course this law is used mainly to silence critical voices.

The list is in fact pretty long. I will leave it at these ones. If you want to partake in one of Amnesty's fine writing or mailing actions, visit their website. Now while as a whole Africa does terrible, the worst place for a journalist is not situated in Africa. The deadliest country is in fact Pakistan (SOURCE). Followed by Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil and Russia.

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