News / Africa

For Africa Media Leaders, Press Freedom Isn't Top Concern

Mourners carry the body of Somali journalist Mohamed Mohamud who was killed after being shot six times by gunmen, Oct. 27, 2013.
Mourners carry the body of Somali journalist Mohamed Mohamud who was killed after being shot six times by gunmen, Oct. 27, 2013.
Marthe van der Wolf
African media leaders concluded a three-day conference in Ethiopia Friday, where press freedom was not on top of the conference agenda, even though many journalists on the continent face restrictions and repression.

Conference organizers said their core focus was on business development, technology innovation, and leadership and ethics. They believe discussions on the business side of media will automatically result in debates on press freedom.

Alison Bethel of the International Press Institute finds it worrisome that the African Media Leaders Forum did not prioritize the issue of press freedom.

“There needs to be more time dedicated to the issue," she said, "because besides from business models and licensing and other things that are crucial to the media here, press freedom also is a very, very important part of doing business.”

There was a one-hour side event organized on the practices and challenges of press freedom in Africa. Journalists from different countries shared their experiences of being harassed, detained and threatened for trying to do their job.

The Committee to Protect Journalists urged the media leaders to address repression in Ethiopia, where the conference is being held. Last week, two Ethiopian journalists were detained for about six days without charges after reporting on local corruption. 

More than 75 media publications have been closed in Ethiopia in the past 20 years and seven journalists are currently imprisoned on charges of terrorism.

Amare Aregwi, managing editor of Ethiopia’s largest English newspaper, The Reporter, says his media colleagues on the continent can also play a role in improving press freedom in Ethiopia:

“They can advise you, share their experiences and train you in such things," Aregwi said. "Sometimes, you don’t find people or the government being ready to listen. On the other side also, some of the international media enjoy criticizing and ridiculing rather than helping.”

Twenty-eight journalists died on the African continent in 2012, with Somalia being the deadliest country. Twelve African countries have passed freedom of information bills, but they include countries such as Ethiopia and Uganda, which are regularly accused of cracking down on media practitioners.

The Doha Center for Media Freedom reported that more than 150 journalists from Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan have been forced into exile since 2008.

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by: ike wilson from: frederick md
November 11, 2013 9:40 AM
Press freedom cannot and should not be underestimated when it comes to unearthing what ails Africa - rampant corruption that pervades every facet of government, and close-minded "leaders" and supervisors who do not realize keep their people in destitute status. Taking bribes at nearly every facet of government reduces living conditions for all.

When I tried to buy a light bulb in Liberia, the merchant tried 5 bulbs that did not work, the 6th worked. Did he throw the damaged bulb in the trash? No! He put it back on the shelf for an unsuspecting citizen to buy later. Are there commerce inspectors who will crack down on that kind of fraud, or will a bribe cause them to allow their fellow citizens to continue to be subjected to this kind of behavior? Just one example of thousands!

by: Anonymous
November 09, 2013 6:17 AM
The truth will appear soon i

by: Jacob Ndhlovu
November 08, 2013 12:46 PM
Core focus on business development, what about the plight of countless people who have lost their lives and liveliehoods in countries where justice has totally collapsed and the world looks on and is still looking on.
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by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
November 09, 2013 2:41 AM
Could not agree more!

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