The media can play a critical role in ensuring citizens’ participation in conversations about their development and helping to keep authorities accountable to the people. But that is only when the media are free and independent, and citizens are free to express themselves without any forms of repression. This is what we seek to achieve under this programme – Free, independent media, and an environment in which people can express themselves freely.
For 22 years, we have kept a vigilant eye on the media landscape across the 16 countries in the region. In the process, we have constantly exposed violators of media and free expression rights and brought pressure to bare on authorities to act in ways that foster press freedom and freedom of expression. This certainly has contributed to making West Africa a relatively better place for press freedom and freedom of expression when compared with other regions on the continent.
Over the two decades, we have consistently produced reports on the press freedom and freedom of expression situation in the region including issuing myriads of alerts each year.
We have, together with our partners, successfully advocated for the passage of Access to Information Laws in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Niger, Guinea, and most recently, Ghana. We have also worked to have criminal libel laws repealed in Ghana and Liberia, and made the application of such laws in countries where they still exist, very unpopular.
Our works have contributed to the release of journalists from jail and secured justice for families of tortured and murdered journalists.
Quite often, security agencies and the media clash while performing their duties. But through our interventions, in a number of countries, the two groups become allies in the interest of safety of journalists especially during critical moments such as elections.
We have continuously built the capacity of our national partner organisations to successfully advocate for digital rights. The advocacy of the MFWA and its partner organisations have been instrumental in keeping citizens’ online rights alive and restrictive internet laws at bay. This has contributed to relatively less incidents of internet shutdowns in West Africa as there are in other parts of the continent. A typical example is our publication on how to counter internet shutdowns.