The Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Barimah, says freedom of the media to work is waning in the West African sub-region.
He said this at the opening of the 7th edition of the West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards in Accra.
“… There is that reciprocal relationship, a congenital relationship between the Media and democracy, if democracy is working, the media can work better. If democracy is not working, the media is impacted negatively.”
The two-part event will feature an awards night under the theme: “Media and Democracy in Africa”.
The event attracted government officials, media professionals, experts, and activists to address the ongoing democratic recession in Africa.
Discussions centred on corruption, illicit financial flows, democratic governance, and the threats to democracy in West Africa.
Media Expert and Academic, Prof. Kwame Karikari, reechoed key factors undermining the media’s role in promoting good democratic governance.
“…It is a deserving fact that the media’s function in exerting accountability and transparency in governance and in public life has become the main targets for attacks on press freedom, the results is growing censorship and creeping self-censorship. But the worst even is the rapid decline of investigative journalism across the continent through murder, threat of murder, arrest and detention, intimidation, and other criminal attacks by hired gangsters or state security operatives.
“Practitioners of investigative journalism have either stopped and gone on to pursue less dangerous subject matter, left the profession altogether or found refuge outside their countries.”
He concluded that, “The media needs a democratic environment to function effectively, and to realise its relevance, but when democratic institutions are attacked and weakened, when democratic norms of media freedoms and independence of the media are attacked, the effectiveness indeed the relevance of the media are not only undermined, but they are also subverted and aborted, indeed press law and freedom of expression are the first casualties when the democracy suffers.”
He urged the media not to relent in fulfilling their crucial role in safeguarding democracy, saying, “So far, democracy now is not the best in my opinion, it is threatened and endangered there is no doubt, but until democracy is tuned into full scale dictatorship, or such other forms of tyranny, the media and civil society must not and should not give up the struggle…”
Dr. Sylvia Blyden, Chief Executive Officer, and Publisher of Awareness Times in Sierra Leone, emphasised the pivotal role of opposition parties in sustaining democracy in Africa.
Speaking during a panel discussion, she said the significance of opposition party voices in influencing the public policy could not be overlooked and called on the media to allocate space for those parties to voice their concerns.
The conference will be climaxed today Saturday, November 11, with an awards night where journalists in the sub-region, who have produced compelling and impactful works will be acknowledged with prizes.