Niger and Nigeria were the greatest violators of freedom of expression and press freedom during the first quarter of 2015, a report by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has revealed.
The report is based on analyses of incidents of free expression violations in the 16 countries of West Africa and published as the quarterly West Africa Free Expression Monitor. According to the report, Niger and Nigeria recorded 10 and 9 incidents of violations, respectively. Together, the two countries accounted for nearly half of the total 43 recorded incidents of free expression violations across the region from January to March, 2015.
In Niger, law enforcement agencies used excessive force, including teargas, against journalists and demonstrators, in addition to arbitrarily arresting and detaining individuals. In neighbouring Nigeria, state and non-state actors physically attacked, threatened, arbitrarily arrested and detained, and censored individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression.
During the period covered by the report, incidents of violations were reported in ten countries, including Niger and Nigeria. The other eight countries are Benin (3 incidents), The Gambia (7), Ghana (3), Guinea (3), Guinea-Bissau (1), Mali (1), Senegal (3), and Sierra Leone (3).
Except in Mali and Sierra Leone, police or security forces abused free expression rights in every country that recorded incidents and were the top violators in the region. They perpetrated the majority of incidents of violations (25 incidents), contravening states’ obligation to respect and protect human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.
“State actors, including police and security forces, are directed by international, African, and West African treaties and protocols to respect and protect the safety of journalists and to fight against impunity,” said Anjali Manivannan, the Programme Officer for Free Expression Rights Monitoring and Campaigns at the MFWA. “Instead, we found a worrying situation in which police and security forces inhibit press freedom by violating journalists’ physical integrity, liberty, and security.”
The West Africa Free Expression Monitor analyses incidents of freedom of expression violations in all 16 countries in West Africa—the 15 ECOWAS Member States plus Mauritania. It highlights where violations occurred as well as the types of violations and perpetrators. This edition also captures other salient issues, such as media unprofessionalism, and positive developments related to freedom of expression.