MFWA Board Expresses Concern over Shrinking Civic Space in West Africa  

Sulemana Braimah, MFWA Executive Director
Sulemana Braimah, MFWA Executive Director

The Board of Directors of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has expressed deep concern over the general decline in press freedom, freedom of expression and the general shrinking of civic spaces in West Africa over the last three years.

The Board made its position known in Accra, Ghana on October 16, 2019, when it met to discuss and review a number of strategic issues relating to the operations of MFWA as well as the broader issues of media freedom, freedom of expression and media development in the West Africa sub-region.

It said it was saddened by the fact that countries in the region that earlier on served as champions for press freedom and free expression, have ceased to be champions. It therefore called for the resurgence of regional leadership on the issues of press freedom and freedom of expression and in this regard, welcomed recent commitments by a number of governments to reenergise efforts on promoting media freedom around the world.

Calling on media professional bodies and associations as well as the media community in the region as a whole to develop and implement effective self-regulatory mechanisms to improve professional standards, it reiterated a deep concern about the falling standards of professionalism in media practice in many parts of the region.

It noted with significant concern, challenges of media sustainability in the region, which it said, if not effectively and immediately tackled, could reverse the gains made over the years and undermine the media’s role in the democratic consolidation processes in the region.

Recognising the importance of technology to the overall development of societies, the Board highlighted the importance of internet penetration, affordability and access for the overall development of the region. Accordingly, the Board called on national governments and regional bodies in West Africa to prioritise investments in ICTs and work collaboratively to promote internet freedom in the region. In view of this, it condemned the phenomenon of network disruptions and shutdowns and online harassment of all forms.

The Board said it remained extremely concerned about the serious challenges posed by extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking to media freedom and practice in West Africa and therefore called on national governments and regional bodies in West Africa to work collaboratively to address the problem. On behalf of MFWA, the Board pledged its support for such efforts through collaborative activities, partnerships and other forms of interventions as may be required to effectively respond to these problems.

It approved MFWA work plan and budget for 2020.