Panafrican News Agency

Media watchdog cites arbitrary censorship, especially on internet, in Africa

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - Despite a wave of liberalisation in the 1990s in Africa, there are still, too often, cases of arbitrary censorship, especially on the internet, with occasional network shutdowns in some countries, arrests of journalists and violent attacks, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Tuesday.

In a report released on World Press Freedom Day, RSF said these usually went completely unpunished, as was the case with the 2016 disappearance of Malian journalist Birama Touré, who – as RSF demonstrated – was kidnapped by a Malian intelligence agency and most likely killed while secretly detained.

The report said press freedom had many facets in Africa, ranging from the abundance of media outlets in Senegal and South Africa, to the "deafening silence of privately owned media" in Eritrea and Djibouti.

Seychelles is ranked the top African country at number 13 out of 180 in the world while Namibia is second on the continent at number 18. Eritrea is bottom in Africa and second to last in the world, only beating North Korea.

RSF said in recent years, a wave of draconian laws criminalizing online journalism had dealt a new blow to the right to information.

"At the same time, the spread of rumours, propaganda, and disinformation has contributed to the undermining of journalism and access to quality information."

RSF said African media outlets, often poorly supported by the government and still largely dependent on the editorial dictates of their owners, struggled to develop sustainable economic models.

Nonetheless, it added, the recent emergence of coalitions of investigative journalists has resulted in major revelations about matters of public interest.

RSF said in the Sahel, insecurity and political instability had sharply increased, and there had been recent, major blows to journalism.

In 2021, it said two Spanish journalists were killed in Burkina Faso, a French reporter, Olivier Dubois, was kidnapped by an armed group in Mali and several journalists were expelled from Benin, Mali and Burkina Faso.

-0- PANA MA/RA 3May2022