A total of 142 incidents of free expression violations were recorded across West Africa in 2015. Almost 90 percent of the incidents were violations against journalists and media organisations, a development that further highlights the important issue of safety of journalists in the region. The press freedom violations were predominantly in the form of arrests, attacks, threats, suspensions and censorships among others.
The Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah made the figures known when made a presentation on safety of journalists in West Africa at the Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIAD).
Mr. Braimah was speaking at a two-day training workshop for 18 journalists selected from seven West Africa countries on March 30 and 31. The training workshop which was organized jointly by the School of Information and Communication Studies and LECIAD was focused in training journalists in conflict reporting and peace journalism.
“The situation in many countries either remained the same or got worse than the previous year. The violations recorded in 2015 represent a 40% increase over the previous year, 2014,” he explained. “This is the trend and this is why the issue of safety of journalists remains very important”.
The worst perpetrators of violations were security officials, state agencies and organized groups. The countries with the highest incidents of violations were Nigeria (34); Niger (16); and The Gambia (15). Both Guinea and Senegal recorded 11 incidents. Ghana, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire each recorded 10 violations. The rest were Benin (7), Sierra Leone (6), Togo (4), Mali (3), Guinea-Bissau (2), Liberia (2) and Mauritania (1). No incident was recorded in Cape Verde.
The figures represented only the incidents that were reported and therefore the situation in the region could be worse than presented.
Mr. Braimah urged the journalists to be interested in supporting advocacy around journalists’ safety. He also challenged them to advocate for their media organisations in the region to develop and implement safety policies for their workers.
At a recent meeting of the leading press freedom organisations in West Africa, the issue of safety of journalists was highlighted as a major concern affected press freedom and media development in the region. The organisations from the 16 countries of West Africa, issued a joint communiqué urging governments in the region to prioritise safety of journalists in all countries.