Journalists rally for end to media censorship on World Press Freedom Day

Kisii and Nyamira-based journalists march in Nyamira town to mark World Press Freedom Day.[Sammy Omingo, Standard]

 Journalists across Africa are demanding an end to media restrictions and censorship.

In a statement on Friday, May 3, during the marking of World Press Freedom Day, the African Editors’ Forum (TAEF) reaffirmed its commitment to a free, independent, and diverse media landscape, while also highlighting the ongoing challenges that undermine this ideal.

“Governments continue to impose restrictions and censorship, hindering the free flow of information,” said TAEF President Churchill Otieno.

 World Press Freedom Day underscores the importance of journalism and freedom of expression, particularly in the context of the current global environmental crisis.

TAEF noted a concerning trend of diminishing media freedom in several African countries, with many journalists forced into exile and leaders disparaging their work.

The organisation expressed deep concern over recent press clampdowns in Burkina Faso and Burundi.

In Burkina Faso, authorities have targeted independent journalists, compelling them to abandon their critical role.

“This is not only a violation of press freedom but a disservice to the nation,” Otieno stated.

 In Burundi, the arrest of journalist Sandra Muhoza over a comment made in a private journalists’ WhatsApp group exemplifies the increasingly intolerant environment for independent media.

TAEF called for her immediate release and urged the Burundian government to engage in constructive dialogue with journalists.

Otieno highlighted that while Africa embraces technological possibilities, the digital divide remains a significant barrier.

Limited access to reliable internet and technology creates hurdles for real-time reporting by journalists and for citizens to access diverse media sources.

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) transforms the media landscape, this divide threatens to widen, further marginalising those without access.

Otieno noted that many African media houses grapple with financial constraints due to limited advertising revenue and political interference that stifles investigative journalism and the production of quality content.

He called on big tech companies to adopt fair compensation models that ensure news organisations receive a just share of revenue generated from their content.

The spread of misinformation and “false news”, he said, poses a major threat, eroding public trust and potentially fuelling violence. TAEF advocates for stricter fact-checking mechanisms and ethical reporting practices within newsrooms.

According to Otieno, women remain significantly underrepresented in media as both journalists and sources.

“TAEF champions initiatives that empower women journalists and ensure their voices are heard in newsrooms and on airwaves,” he added.

 Journalists in Africa continue to face significant safety risks, including harassment, intimidation, and physical violence. TAEF urges governments and all stakeholders to prioritise the safety of journalists, allowing them to fulfil their crucial role without fear.

The journalists’ body called for a collective responsibility to build a media landscape in Africa that is truly free, independent, and empowers all voices.

 “A strong, vibrant media is the cornerstone of a thriving democracy, and together, we can ensure it flourishes across the continent,” Otieno added.