Media and DemocracyIf everyone has the right to receive information and to express and disseminate his opinion, as Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights states, then only a free, independent and functioning media can guarantee that right. By providing pertinent information, media enable citizens to make informed decisions and hold elected representatives accountable to ensure they fulfil the tasks they were elected to do. The relationship between media and democracy is therefore intrinsic and the right to freedom of expression is recognized as a fundamental human right in the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.
The African media landscape, however, is often a canvas of contradictions. Exemplary continental and regional standards for freedom of expression, access to information and media regulation are overshadowed by the lack of their national implementation. Governments have underwritten the most elaborate guarantees for media freedom worldwide - only to forget, postpone or sabotage their realization at home. And even if many countries enshrine principles of freedom of expression in their constitution, the practice often leaves much to be desired.
Nevertheless, certain framework conditions are a pre-requisite for the media to operate. These include an enabling legal framework as well as its practice and should translate to an open society in which governments allow criticism, promote open debates without fear of repercussions or intimidation and strife to inform their citizenry. Fesmedia Africa therefore promotes advocacy efforts for required legal reform, dialogue between governments and media, the improvement of working conditions for the media and the promotion of diversity of platforms as well as opinions and voices in order to promote democratic debate.