Most Africans believe the news media should have the right to publish any views and ideas without government control; this is according to Afrobarometer, as the globe celebrates World Press Freedom Day today.
About 54 per cent of Africans across 36 counties said news media should have the right to publish any views and ideas without government control 42 per cent say that government should have the right to prevent publications that it “considers harmful to society”.
World Press Freedom Day has been on May 3, since 1993, the day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
“It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom – a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered,” explains the UN.
This year’s WPFD focuses on three different aspects of press freedom:
- Freedom of information as a fundamental freedom and as a human right
- Protecting press freedom from censorship and surveillance overreach
- Ensuring safety for journalism online and offline
Afrobarometer explains: “Amid growing concerns about government restrictions on media freedom, Africans overwhelmingly support an independent media that holds government accountable.”
With the exception of Egypt, more than two-thirds of the surveyed countries say the news media should “constantly investigate and report on government mistakes and corruption”, in Egypt only 46 per cent agree.
Across 34 countries tracked since 2011/13, the proportion of citizens who lack confidence in the efficacy of the news media surged up about 4 per cent from 26 per cent to 30 per cent, while the majority (59 per cent) of respondents believe it to be effective in revealing government mistakes and corruption.
A mild 51 per cent perceive the media to “rarely” or “never” abuse its freedom by publishing lies, but more than one-third of Africans (more than two-thirds in some countries) say it does so “often” or “always.”
Trends show that radio remains the most common news source as seven in 10 Africans access the medium daily (47 per cent), despite this, radio and newspapers are slowly losing ground, as more convenient platforms like the TV and the Internet gain traction.
One in five Africans now regularly get their news from social media and the internet.
The report titled “Strong public support for ‘watchdog’ role backs African news media under attack,” based on nearly 54,000 interviews across 36 African countries in 2014/2015.