Press freedom in Africa has come a long way and still has a long way to go. With all honesty, journalists in most African countries today enjoy a significant degree of press freedom that was not possible a few years ago.
While a comparative number of African governments have embraced the idea of a free press, a majority of them are still reluctant to create legislation that will guarantee freedom of the press. This has continued to put journalists in a precarious position when performing their duties.
According to a report published by Huffington Post, Africa is notorious for jailing journalists with Ethiopia, Egypt, Eritrea and Guinea topping the list of main offenders.
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“In Africa, Namibia tops the press freedom charts and Egypt is the worst country for journalists,” the report claims.
Press Freedom and Africa’s Unity
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) argues that press freedom and good governance are intertwined, insisting that a free, independent and diverse press is the foundation on which critical development results such as cohesion, economic development and transparency are built.
“Press freedom is essential to the exercise of democracy, the prevention of corruption and the promotion of transparency,” CPJ maintains.
The World Bank has also underscored the connection between press freedom in Africa and the unity that African countries have for many decades longed for, stating that “a free press not only serves as an outlet for expression, but it also provides a source of accountability, a vehicle for civic participation and a check on official corruption.”
Free press has been found to facilitate democratic elections, the lack of which has for decades caused bloodshed in Africa. Experts therefore argue that for Africa to realize the union and harmony it has been yearning for, it has to allow its press to carry out its duties without obstruction.
A free press is able to hold African governments and electoral institutions to account by highlighting any misdeeds in political contests, thus preventing conflicts that may arise from rigged elections.
The Committee to Protect Journalists further states that press freedom in Africa has been able to contribute to political knowledge by informing the electorate of their rights and entitlement to political participation.
This means the African populace is aware of the need to make sensible political decisions that will help avert future political conflicts, creating a more cohesive society.
A free press has also educated the African populace on why and how they should hold their leaders accountable.