The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, says there is hope for press freedom in Liberia and Burundi, where an independent press facilitated the democratic process. Speaking to VOA as the CPJ released its 2005 report, “Attacks on the Press,” the committee’s Africa program coordinator, Julia Crawford, said, “There are some good countries, where actually there are signs of hope after the elections; in both Burundi and Liberia, an independent press has played quite an important role in the democratic transition process.” In some ways, she continued, “things have got better because most African governments realize that if they jail journalists, they’re going to get [very] bad press from the outside world, so in many countries, the repression has become less obvious.”
Crawford also said, “One would have thought with elections, there would be democracy and hence more press freedom, but unfortunately, that did not seem to be the case….” She blames the situation on conflict as well, citing Eritrea, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe as the having the worst attacks on the press. The report records four killed and more jailed journalists in 2005 than in 2004 – 33 in 2005, up from 19 in 2004.
The Africa Program Coordinator went on to say there is bound to be conflict between governments and an independent press because “the role of an independent press is to investigate, criticize or give an alternative view, which the government will see as critical. We believe that a free press is a vital part of democracy, and a government that claims to be democratic must recognize that, without creating an environment where journalists are basically too scared to work without the fear of reprisal.