This year’s Press Freedom Day marked the 30th anniversary since the UN dedicated this day to “remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. It is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics”. This year’s celebration focuses on the theme: “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights.”
While progress has been made on press freedom in Africa, concerns remain over the arrest and detention of journalists, use of draconian laws to silence critical voices, insecurity resulting in the death or disappearance of journalists and increasing self-censorship of the media. In its analysis of press freedom, Reporters Without Borders classified Africa as “still a high-risk continent for journalists” citing the killing and suppression of journalists in some countries, and the spread of disinformation that renders the media as a “propaganda tool” to further the agenda of foreign and host governments.
Despite these challenges, Internews has continued to work with and support local media on the African continent to promote press freedom, enhance media professionalism and sustainability.
Democratic Republic of Congo: Light at the end of the tunnel for press freedom
In celebration of World Press Freedom Day in the DRC, Internews supported the Association of Online News Media Outlets (MILRDC) in organizing discussions on the security of journalists in the conflict torn Eastern Congo and the new Press Freedom law passed on March 13, 2023. The event was attended by President Tshisekedi, Minister of Communication and Media, Patrick Muyaya, US Ambassador Lucy Tamlyn and the Head of the Swedish Cooperation, Joachim Beijmo. As the new Press Freedom law calls for a partial decriminalization of press offenses, President Tshisekedi reiterated his government’s commitment to enact an Access to Public Information law and the reorganization of self-regulatory bodies that would ensure a total decriminalization of press offenses from the Congolese media legal framework.
Several other events were organized with local partners including a debate on press freedom and the inclusion of the most vulnerable in democratic debates, the conduct of four roundtables in four different cities across the DRC on the new Press Freedom law and its impact on community radios and a photo exhibition capturing the role of community radios in the communities they serve.
Tanzania: A call for justice and the role of the media
In a three-day conference held in Zanzibar to mark the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, Internews participated in the discussion about the future of justice and the role of freedom of expression in fostering and maintaining other basic human rights. The event was attended by the President of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi, who reaffirmed the government’s commitment to upholding and valuing the right to freedom of information and expression.
Internews also supported journalists from two partner radio stations to attend the event, and they reported on the challenges facing press freedom in Tanzania, such as draconian laws and poor working conditions for journalists in Arusha. In addition, Internews supported the Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) in conducting a thematic workshop on media laws and policy reforms, which resulted in several resolutions, including the need for the government to prioritize the creation of an enabling environment for freedom of expression and access to information.
Zambia: USAID-Open Spaces project takes World Press Freedom Day to Community Radio
In celebration of World Press Freedom Day, Internews held an event at the Chongwe Community Radio Station in Chongwe district, Zambia that attracted around 100 delegates including the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, USAID Deputy Mission Director, Local District Commissioner, traditional leaders, and journalists. The event included a 20-minute live radio program that featured USAID-Zambia Civil Society and Media Specialist, Charlene Bangwe who underscored the protection of human rights. In his statement, USAID’s Deputy Mission Director to Zambia Robin Sharma maintained that freedom of expression and press freedom are key to the attainment of all human rights. He cited the array of cyber bullying including violence against journalists – both on and offline and called on the Zambian government to “consider the reforms of cyber security and Cyber Crimes Act to foster freedom of information and expression”.
It was the first time that Internews celebrated World Press Freedom Day at a community station – highlighting the importance of community radios in meeting the information needs of audiences, especially more marginalized groups based in rural communities.
“Hosting the events here in Chongwe is like the baptism ceremony to show how contemporary radio should be run. It has also showed us how much USAID-Open Space Zambia project and Internews care and mean well to the station and the people in promotion of human rights and economic development,” Penias Tembo, the Station Manager for Chongwe explained.
The celebrations culminated in the launch of the Freedom of Expression report for Zambia and the awarding of prizes to eight female journalists for their reporting on corruption, gender inclusion, digital rights, and smart cities among others.
Liberia: Internews Launches Radio Content Syndication Project and Dedicates Production Studio to ALICOR
Internews along with the Association of Liberia Community Radio (ALICOR) on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, formally launched the Radio Content Syndication Project with a commitment to promote quality journalism and a culture of truth-telling. Funded by the Swedish Government and managed by Internews, the project seeks to help improve citizens’ access to information through community radio content syndication. The project also drives efforts to increase the vibrancy of ALICOR for its long-term sustainability.
In his remarks at the launch of the project, the Swedish Ambassador to Liberia, Urban Sjostrom, underscored the importance of a strong, vibrant, and credible media in the consolidation of democracy while highlighting the relevance of the project in “increasing the voices of the ordinary people in telling their stories and advancing solutions to issues impacting their communities”.
The President of ALICOR, Hector Mulbah cited the important role of radio in “providing people access to information, helping them make informed decisions and holding policy makers accountable”.
Speaking on behalf of the Liberian government, the Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs Jalawh Tonpo praised the efforts that led to the launch of the Radio Content Syndication Project. He hoped that the project will help boost the quality of journalism in Liberia.