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Media Watchdog Group says West Africa Has Seen Gains and Losses in Press Freedom

Thursday, May 3rd, is World Press Freedom Day. For a look at the status of the media in West Africa, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua contacted the Media Foundation of West Africa in Accra. And spoke to Janette Quarcoopome, the organization’s program officer, about the quality of journalism in the region.

“It’s a bit mixed. The media Foundation for West Africa is a regional press freedom advocacy organization. So in that regard we have a general idea of the situation of the media and press freedom in the sub-region of West Africa. And I’m saying it’s mixed because of the 15 countries there have been plusses, but there have also been very major setbacks in press freedom in the entire region,” she says.

Quarcoopome outlines the good and the bad. “I think that the level of professionalism of the practice of journalism is fairly commendable, particularly in countries like Ghana and Senegal, Benin and to some extent, of course, Nigeria. So we do have plusses in that direction. But in terms of the security and safety of journalists we have major setbacks in Guinea, where there is practically no independent, private media because the airways have been liberalized, in terms of broadcasting, only as of last year. And even so, there’s practically not a private radio station operating in Guinea.

“And then, of course, The Gambia, which sticks out like a sore thumb, in terms of the insecurity for journalists. It’s a head on collision between the journalists and the government as it were. And there’s a lot of persecution,” she says.

Of the importance of having a free press in West Africa, Quarcoopome says, “I think that the examples in Ghana and in Senegal, particularly during elections, shows that the role of the media is absolutely critical in deepening democracy.”