Reporters Without Borders tallied more than 100 press freedom violation incidences of varying degrees over the last month in Sudan alone. In January 2018, 18 journalists were arrested after they covered the protests over bread prices tripling. The reports do not end there and even more have been pouring out of other countries across the continent over the last couple of years.
About 121 cases of abuses against the media, including arbitrary arrests and media closures, were recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017.
In Madagascar, a journalist was given a prison sentence (although suspended) for the first time in 40 years as a result of investigative reporting that exposed corruption in the country. Meanwhile, in Togo, authorities reportedly withdrew the accreditation of an international TV broadcaster’s correspondent after she covered opposition protests.
2019 has brought its own cases of press freedom violation, too, with Ghanaian investigative journalist Hussein-Suale murdered in Accra earlier this month. In Cameroon, two newspaper reporters were arrested while covering a meeting of members of Cameroon’s opposition on the evening of 28 January.
Internet shutdowns also now seem to be used as an accompanying method to suppress dissent and free flow of information, as seen in the two-month internet blackout in parts of Cameroon and, most recently, the whole of Zimbabwe.
Some journalists have actively refused to accept this trend as the status quo, however. In February last year, Chad’s journalists staged a “Day without Press” protest when the Union of Chad Journalists (UJT) called for retaliation to the often violent harassment of journalists and recent closures of community radio stations. Radio stations were silent and newspapers were missing from newsstands and the campaign drew significant support from Human rights organisations as well as press freedom advocates.
The worrying trends put a dent in efforts to build a democratic Africa, free to inform and express itself, and greater advocacy and review of existing legislation around the media is needed to maintain any such hopes.