The Board of Directors of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has expressed deep concerns about the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on media businesses in West Africa.
At its recent meeting on February 25, 2021, the Board bemoaned the collapse of several media organisations in the region and the consequent job losses in the media sector. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, over 100 media organisations in the region have folded up with hundreds of journalists losing their jobs as a result.
As the crises from the pandemic persist, it remains uncertain how many more media organisations in the region will become casualties to the serious economic and other challenges caused by the pandemic. The Board, thus, urged governments and other stakeholders in the region to take steps to support the survival and sustainability of the media in the various countries.
The Board also denounced the continuous and escalating spate of human and media rights violations in the Republic of Guinea. Over the last two years, dozens of journalists and other human rights activists have been attacked, arrested and detained, and others even killed. The Board called on the government of Guinea to take immediate and appropriate steps to end the spate of violations and also provide justice for victims.
These, among other concerns, were contained in a six-point Resolution adopted by the Board after its meeting. Below is the six-point Resolution adopted by the Board:
Resolution by the Board of Directors of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) At its Meeting held on February 25, 2021
On February 25, 2021, the Board of Directors of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) held a virtual meeting to discuss a number of strategic documents and issues; the implications and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the regional context and operations of the organisation; and other broader issues of media freedom, freedom of expression and media development in West Africa. The meeting was presided over by the Chairperson of the Board, Ms. Sophie Ly Sow of Senegal. At the end of the meeting, the Board unanimously adopted and issued this six-point Resolution.
- The Board is deeply concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nearly every aspect of life and in particular, the crippling effect of the pandemic on media businesses and media sustainability in the region. The Board also acknowledges the further deterioration of press freedom, freedom of expression and the continuous shrinking of civic spaces in the region, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19-related attacks and repressive policies. It, therefore, called on governments in the region to offer stimulus support to media organisations to enhance their capacity so they can continue to operate even under the challenging economic circumstances.
- The Board is deeply saddened by the fact that increasingly, a few countries in the region that served as champions for press freedom and free expression, are ceasing their leadership role on those issues and called for the resurgence of regional leadership on press freedom and freedom of expression issues. In this regard, the Board welcomed recent commitments by a number of governments around the World to re-energise efforts on promoting media freedom and safety of journalists around the world.
- The Board reiterates its deep concern about the serious and systematic human and media rights violations in the Republic of Guinea and urges authorities in the country to take immediate steps to address such violations and provide justice for victims. In view of the situation, the Board directed that the organisation should plan and execute a dedicated advocacy campaign on the situation in Guinea and to work with the government and other stakeholders to help improve the state of media rights and freedom of expression in the country.
- In the light of general deteriorating human rights conditions in the region, the Board notes with profound sadness, the decision by the governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Benin to withdraw the right of individuals and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to submit complaints directly to the African Court of Human and People Right (AfCHPR). The Board expressed concern that the decision of the two governments has the potential to further impede citizens’ access to justice and also reverse the modest gains made in the promotion of human rights in the region.
- Recognising the importance of technology to the overall development and in the efforts to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control in the region, the Board emphasised the importance of internet access, affordability and use by all, but especially by women. Accordingly, the Board calls on national governments and regional bodies in West Africa to prioritise investments in ICTs and work collaboratively to promote internet freedom and especially women’s digital rights, to help bridge the widening digital gender gap in the region.
- The Board remains extremely concerned about the serious challenges posed by extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking to the overall security situation in the region and in particular, to media freedom and practice in West Africa. The Board thus, calls on national governments and regional bodies to work collaboratively to help address the problem.
Adopted, this Thursday February 25, 2021.