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Nigeria, The Gambia, Ghana Top List of Reported Free Press Violations in West Africa

A media watchdog group says it is “alarmed” at the increasing attacks against journalists and press freedoms in West Africa.

The Media Foundation of West Africa recorded 168 violations in 2006, compared to 148 in 2005. Nigeria tops the list with 32 reported cases of abuse of press freedom, followed by The Gambia and Ghana.

Jeannette Quarcoopome is the spokesperson for the Media Foundation of West Africa. From Accra, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the status of the media.

“We are quite alarmed at the state of affairs at the moment. And we think that it does not reflect the sub-region’s own direction toward increasing democracy and respect for democratic values,” she says.

Quarcoopome talks about the type of attacks journalists in West Africa are facing. “We are seeing physical attacks on journalists as they go about performing their legitimate duties of gathering news and information. We have seen situations where journalists also have been prevented from participating in activities they consider newsworthy, so that they are physically prevented from covering press briefings, press conferences and other such newsworthy events,” she says.

She adds, “In the specific case of The Gambia (number two on the list), we have incidents of arson and continuous threats on the lives of the journalists to the extent that a number of them have fled the country. At the moment, the Media Foundation is having to support some of these journalists, who no longer feel safe in their countries.”

In Nigeria (number one), some of the violations reported include arrests and detentions.

“The third country probably would be Ghana,” she says, “where there has been increasing intolerance in the way and manner that the journalists and the media are turning the searchlight on the lives of people who hold public office, as well as individuals in general.”

Liberia, Ivory Coast and Guinea-Conakry are also high on the foundation’s list of media rights abusers.