African Media Councils Form New Body to Promote Press Freedom and Ethical Journalism in Africa

Mr. Ernest Sungura, Chair of NIMCA

In a landmark move towards media regulation across Africa, 13 media councils from East, West, and Southern Africa have united to form the Network of Independent Media Councils in Africa (NIMCA). The Network was established during the inaugural meeting of African media councils, convened by the South African Press Council in Cape Town, South Africa.

The newly formed body officially established on May 16, 2024, aimed to unite independent media content regulators across the continent and convene regularly to discuss strengthening media freedom, ethics, and public accountability in Africa. Its mission is to ensure that professional media can operate freely and without fear of reprisals, while adhering to journalistic ethical standards and codes of practice. NIMCA’s principles will be guided by the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, issued by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2019.

NIMCA has called on other independent media regulators in Africa to join the body in advocating for self-regulation as a fundamental element of a free, professional, and credible media landscape faced with challenges posed by the rise of social media and the spread of unethical and low-quality content.

The Cape Town meeting emphasized the need for media, whether privately or government-funded, to function in a free environment, free from censorship, intimidation, harassment, or threats against journalists.

The African Media Councils meeting held at the heels of the World Press Freedom featured in-depth discussions on various issues, including digital platform governance, the development of a pan-African media ethics framework, and adherence to UNESCO’s principles for fostering ethical and credible journalism.

The Network emphasized that in jurisdictions where co-regulation is constitutionally stipulated, media councils and similar bodies must be allowed to self-regulate and act independently from government. The members agreed that trust in and credibility of the media is vital for its survival, and that self-regulatory mechanisms are key to uphold professional standards and consider complaints where media fall short of meeting these.

Delegates also highlighted the importance of gender equity and sensitivity in the composition of regulatory bodies, agreeing that the NIMCA executive body will have equal representation of men and women. They shared best practices and challenges related to press freedom, ethical journalism, and the financial sustainability of media and regulatory bodies. The meeting acknowledged the need for new journalism curricula and training models to address ethical issues arising from advancements in artificial intelligence and digital media convergence.

UNESCO representatives participated in the meeting, reaffirming the organisation’s commitment to support and collaborate with African media councils in advocating for freedom of expression, universal access to verified information, and the safety of journalists and media professionals in line with regional and international goals and frameworks.

NIMCA will be initially led by the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), with Ernest Sungura, the MCT executive secretary, serving as the first chair. The inaugural executive board includes Latiefa Mobara, Executive Director of the Press Council of South Africa; George Sarpong, Executive Secretary/CEO of Ghana’s National Media Commission; and Kennedy Mambwe, chairperson of the Media Self-Regulatory Council of Zambia. The MCT will host the 2025 NIMCA meeting, with support from UNESCO and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

Mr. Sungura said, “This is an important day for our media sector and eco-system. For too long our media councils have operated in silos with little engagement or information sharing. In a world that is increasingly connected, but also fracturing into echo chambers, NIMCA heralds a new era for building common approaches, deepening media freedom, foster stronger accountability systems and support credible, sustainable journalism across our continent.”

The founding meeting saw participation from various independent media regulatory bodies, both statutory and non-statutory from East Africa: Media Council of Tanzania, Media Council of Kenya, Media Council of Uganda, Rwanda Media Commission, Ethiopia Media Council; West Africa: National Media Commission Ghana, Nigerian Press Council; and Southern Africa: Namibia Media Ombudsman, Media Council of Malawi, Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Media Commission, Media Self-Regulation Council of Zambia, and Press Council of South Africa.