Maria de Lurdes Cossa
Press freedom remains fragile in most African countries. According to the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by the Reports Without Borders (RSB), 102 journalists have been killed in the continent in the past 10 years.
The continued persecution of journalists is a way of silencing media adopted by dictators and authoritarian governments. Those who are not killed are intimidated and threatened, especially journalists who cover sensitive political stories.
Speaking at the World Press Freedom Day Youth Newsroom 2021, three female journalists – two with long careers in the media and one young, upcoming journalist – said they want more done for the professionals across the continent, seeing that the Windhoek Declaration, which birthed the World Press Freedom Day, was Africa’s gift to the world.
“It is how the African media may brighten,” they affirmed.
Charmaine Ngatjiheue, journalist at The Namibian newspaper, who has been working in a media landscape for eight years, believes that the future of media in Africa is under threat, unless significant change is enacted by its governments.
She says it is necessary to start arresting the culprits, even if the perpetrators are in positions of influence or power.
“Governments must ensure access to information laws are passed to ensure that journalists can freely do their jobs without fear or favour. Governments should also pass laws that support press freedom and allow journalists to do their jobs freely; after all, information is a public good. As well as end impunity for crimes against professionals”.
Senior journalist at Namibian Sun Jemima Beukes believes that the future of media in Africa depends on governments.
Beukes, with 10 years experience in the Namibian media, said that governments must respect freedom of press and uphold their constitutions that protect the environment in which journalists work.
“While it takes time to change these unfortunate scenarios for journalists, the most important thing is that the conversation around these issues have started and we need to continue deliberating on it. One journalist who dies in the line of duty is one too many,” she said. “The fact that journalists are often threatened in this continent makes me fear for my life before I have experienced any sort of threat. I sometimes ask myself if I should really keep practising,” expressed Nokwanda Sibandze, a young and upcoming journalist at the Eswatini Observer. With three years media experience, Sibandze believes the future of media in Africa is not so bright, considering that practising journalism is very dangerous here.
“So, I feel like the consequences are not just going to affect the people who practice journalism, but also the profession of journalism as a whole,” she said.
Sibandze is of the opinion that people who threaten the practice of journalism need to be punished. She also added that several regulatory measures were needed to exemplify possible consequences to those who put the lives of reporters in danger.
“Governments from every African country should look into having legislation that protects us – our work, so that we are able to do our jobs freely without fear,” she said.
- WPFD Youth Newsroom