In a communiqué issued at the end of a conference on Media and Participatory Government hosted by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in Accra, leading media development and free expression organisations in West Africa called on governments in the region to make safety of journalists and access to information a priority.
The conference was attended by representatives from freedom of expression and media development organisations of 15 West African countries, ECOWAS, UN agencies, diplomats and other civil society stakeholders. The aim of the conference was to identify key challenges in the areas of freedom of expression and the role of the media in promoting good governance, regional integration and peace in West Africa.
The Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, in his opening remarks at the conference described how the landscapes of media and freedom of expression in Nigeria have experienced dramatic changes since the establishment of MFWA nearly two decades ago. Mr. Ojo stated that given the upsurge of terrorism in the African continent, media organizations and their workers have suffered brutal attacks while it is becoming a difficult task to defend media and press freedom.
Mr. Ojo pointed out that quite a number of instruments have been adopted in the continent of Africa that endorse freedom of expression, as Africa has come to the realization that it plays a huge role in good governance. However, not many West African countries guarantee the right of access to information of their citizens and so many countries still have to grapple with the challenge of implementation. He also cited that access and affordability of internet services were major issues in Africa as well as human rights violation online.
Representatives at the conference were able to deliberate on press freedom, professional journalism and good governance issues in West Africa, after which a communiqué was adopted. Contained in the communiqué was a call to governments of the West African Region to create a safe environment for journalists to work effectively without the danger of attacks or undue interference.
In the communiqué, ECOWAS was called upon to put in place measures “to ensure compliance of member states with the human rights decisions of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice.” Another call was made to ECOWAS “to prioritise the adoption and national level implementation of the pending regional frameworks on Access to Information and Freedom of Expression in line with the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance”
The full communiqué is available at http://www.mfwa.org/prioritise-safety-of-journalists-access-to-information-press-freedom-groups-in-west-africa-urge-govts/