The slump in freedom of expression in West Africa continued in the second quarter of 2022, but with a change in baton from Ghana to Nigeria in a race to the bottom.
With 12 violations, Nigeria outpaced Ghana, which had reported the most violations in the first quarter, according to the Freedom of Expression (FOE) monitor. Ghana, which had recorded 11 violations to top the chart in the first quarter, recorded six this time round with Guinea following with 4.
Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone recorded 3 violations each, Liberia, 2 while Gambia and Mauritania recorded 1 violation each.
This means, eight (8) out of the 15 West African countries and Mauritania which had been responsible for the first quarter violations are the same countries which are responsible for the second quarter violations. They include Ghana and Senegal, which had until very recently, been press freedom champions in the sub-region.
Meanwhile, the MFWA’s FOE report catalogued a total of 42 violations between April and June, 23 percent higher than violations from the preceding quarter (January-March 2022) which stood at 34.
And the trajectory is against the background that previous violations were not addressed.
The report shows that five varieties of perpetrators committed the 42 violations – security agents, 20 (47%); Political party affiliates, 9 (21%), state/public officials and individuals 4 each (10%). The others are organised groups and the courts.
The violations were mostly in the form of physical attacks (17), with at least one killing. There were also Arrests and detentions (11), threats (5), censors (4), seizures and destruction of property, (4), and sentences (1).
In spite of the gloom, however, there were positive developments – on April 13, 2022, MFWA partners in Guinea-Bissau negotiated a staggered payment with the government to allow 51 stations whose licenses were revoked to reopen while they honour their obligations.
On June 29, 2022, publisher Haruna Mohammed and reporter Idris Kamal of the online newspaper WikkiTimes were released on bail by a court of the State of Bauchi in Nigeria after almost 24 hours in police custody. The journalists were being harassed after a member of the House of Representatives for the Bauchi Federal Constituency initiated a petition concerning a recent report by the newspaper.
The report recommended that journalists work very high standards while media managers commit to using all legal means to protect journalists from attacks. It also recommended that governments ensure that both state and non-state actors respect the rights of journalists while calling on ECOWAS and the UN to hold governments accountable for violations.