Press Freedom: What Will It Take? A Look at How Internews in Africa Commemorated the 31st World Press Freedom Day, 2024

As a testament to the global commitment to press freedom, countries worldwide commemorate World Press Freedom Day, every 3rd of May. This year’s theme: “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis,” underscored the pivotal role of journalism and freedom of expression in communicating our planet’s pressing environmental challenges.

In Kenya: “False balance should have no place in climate change reporting”

Panelists during the Annual Media Summit, 2024 Nairobi, Kenya.

Internews’ partner, The Media Council of Kenya, celebrated World Press Freedom Day by convening the Annual Media Summit which brought together journalists, media practitioners, government representatives, and the international development community.  This event also saw the launch of the State of the Media Report 2023/2024, which revealed that the majority of media practitioners still deem government threats as the top problem facing Kenyan media. 

As the media professionals reflected on issues of press freedom and professional ethics, participants identified the prioritization of environmental stories, the establishment of climate desks, and investments in funding and capacity building as opportunities for increasing coverage of climate stories that can prompt climate action. 

Dr. Jackline Lidubwi, Project Coordinator – Internews Earth Journalism Network (EJN) Africa, encouraged the participants to join EJN to benefit from the resources available on the platform, including access to training and funding opportunities. She challenged journalists to take up the role of advocate when covering environmental issues and to avoid the use of ‘balance’ in climate change reporting as it leads to climate action delay.

In Nigeria: The Need for Media Law Reforms

Regional Program Manager, Musa Sangarie (left) with the panelists.

The Swedish and Norwegian Embassies in Abuja, Nigeria, in collaboration with Internews and the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) organized a panel discussion at the Residence of the Norwegian Ambassador in Abuja to celebrate this year’s World Press Freedom Day. The event attracted around 50 participants including journalists, civil society activists, human rights defenders, government officials, and members of the diplomatic community. The discussions focused on “Current Challenges, Opportunities and Priorities for Press Freedom in Nigeria” with four panelists sharing their expertise and perspectives on four key themes:

The engaging and insightful discussions underscored the need for media legal reforms in Nigeria, safety and protection of journalists, media self-regulation to improve professionalism and support to the media to enhance quality journalism and media sustainability. Musa Sangarie, Internews’ Regional Programs Manager, West & Central Africa also presented key findings from Internews’ Nigeria Media Needs Assessment 2023 which was conducted between November 2022 – March 2023.

The discussions were co-facilitated by Musa Sangarie, Internews’ Regional Programs Manager, West & Central Africa, and Queen Esther Iroanusi, the Political & Development Adviser at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Abuja.

In Zambia: Southern Province Upbeat About USAID Open Spaces Project’s Impact

USAID Mission Director Peter Wiebler, with Minister of Information and Media Cornelius Mwetwa, presenting an award to Justina Matandiko from Radio Icengelo during the 2024 World Press Freedom Day celebrations at Radio Chikuni, with Fr. Vincent Nchimunya Director at Radio Chikuni, looking on.

USAID Open Spaces Project and Internews’ partner radio station, Chikuni, hosted the first-ever World Press Freedom Day Celebrations in Zambia’s Southern Province. The event was attended by the Minister of Information and Media  – Cornelius Mwetwa, USAID Mission Director – Peter Wiebler, and Internews and Open Spaces Project Chief of Party – Teldah Mawarire. Minister Cornellius Mwetwa praised the USAID Open Spaces project’s contribution to media development and press freedom in Zambia, emphasizing that the government would protect journalists and not close any media houses.

In addition to information sessions on climate change reporting and digital hygiene for journalists, along with the awarding of deserving journalists by PANOS (including Justina Matandiko and Clara Chisenga from USAID Open Spaces Project partner Radio Icengelo), a trailer was donated to Chikuni radio station as part of the Open Media Fund support.

In DRC: “Focus on supporting community media”

Panelists at the World Press Freedom Day Commemoration in DRC.

In an event that brought together key players from the press and media sectors, including the Association of Online Media of the DRC, The Observatory of Press Freedom in Africa, Partnership for Integrated Protection, Federation of Local Radios of the DRC, and Journalists in Danger (JED), Internews received accolades for its unwavering support to  local media through training and capacity building projects. Internews DRC Country Director, Karim Benard-Dende, stressed the importance of supporting community and online media to promote quality and resilient information.

Further, the Director of Cabinet representing the Minister of Communication and Media highlighted reforms aimed at promoting a free, independent, and responsible press, including the plan to rebuild the self-regulatory body for journalists, which aligns with presidential recommendations. The Director recognized and appreciated the participation of the American and Swedish Ambassadors, as well as the Deputy Head of Mission of the Swiss Embassy, whose presence marked their countries’ support for press freedom in the DRC. The need for stakeholders to continue working together was underscored as a critical way to promote a healthy and pluralistic media environment while respecting democratic principles and fundamental rights.

Incidentally, Jonathan Magoma, the coordinator of Partnership for Integral Protection, a South Kivu-based human rights organization that monitors media freedom, reported 22 cases of press freedom violations in conflict-torn Eastern Congo between January and April 2024. Magoma reported that, “the day before this World Press Freedom Day celebration in Bukavu, a member of the South Kivu Provincial Assembly threatened a journalist from la Prunelle RDC (an online media outlet and local radio) and confiscated his accreditation badge from the Electoral Commission, which is mandatory for covering both direct and indirect elections at voting facilities. This action was taken because the journalist had reported on corruption during the first round of indirect elections for the Governor.” As of now, three journalists in South Kivu are being arraigned in court for exercising their right to inform.

In Liberia: Continued Stakeholder Engagement for Comprehensive Media Law Reforms

Meeting with Senator Dillion at His Capitol Building Office in Monrovia.

Internews Liberia held  series of stakeholder engagements involving members of the Liberian Legislature, the Executive branch of the Liberian Government, and the diplomatic community to seek ways to address critical issues affecting the Liberian media landscape and to pave the way for a more transparent, accountable, and free press.

Senator Darius Dillon, Chairperson of the Liberian Senate Statutory Committee on Foreign Affairs, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting expressed commitment to ensuring that the voices of marginalized and vulnerable communities are heard in the reform process

“Our doors are opened to support your media law reform agenda at the level of the Liberian Senate. We are prepared to introduce any media reform instrument that you will share with us. We will rally our colleagues to ensure speedy passage because we support free but professional press”. – Sen. Dillion.