Namibia tops Press Freedom Index, Ghana drops as Sudan and Nigeria move up

Namibia has topped Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) annual press freedom index in Africa for the second consecutive year.

Press freedom

Cape Verde moved retained its second and 25th position in Africa and globally respectively.

Ghana remained third in Africa but went down 3 points to become 30th globally while South Africa maintained its 4th and 31st position in Africa and the world respectively.

In the findings released on Tuesday, Eritrea is still the worst country in Africa when it comes to press freedom.

In an analysis of the index, the RSF stated that “Press freedom remains highly fragile in sub-Saharan Africa. The fall of several dictators and authoritarian governments in recent years in countries such as Angola (up three at 106th), Ethiopia (up 11 at 99th), Gambia (up five at 87th), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (up 4 at 150th), Sudan (up 16 at 159th) and Zimbabwe (up one at 126th), has loosened the noose on journalists in these countries.”

The RSF stated that the changes needed for high-quality, free and independent journalism to grow are few.

“Worse, some countries such as Tanzania (down six at 124th) and Benin (down 17 at 113th) have seen significant retreats. Arrests and arbitrary and lengthy detentions are increasing, as are on-line attacks and repressive new laws which can be abused to curb freedom of news and information on the pretext of fighting disinformation and Internet crime.”

The RSF indicated that journalists continue to lose their lives in Africa. According to them, 102 journalists have been killed in Africa over the past 10 years.

“Half of them in Somalia (up one at 163rd). Somalia remains the most dangerous country for reporters despite significant progress towards punishing police officers and military personnel who commit violence against media workers.”

Meanwhile, the RSF also indicated that the new form of threat in Africa is cyber-censorship, cyber-surveillance, and cyber-attacks on journalists in the continent.

Sudan (up by 16 at 159) is said to have made great progress “since the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April last year.”

“The number of direct attacks, arrests of journalists and censorship of newspapers has fallen considerably, although news organizations, particularly online, are still monitored. According to information received by RSF, the Cyber Jihadist Unit, an offshoot of the intelligence services, is still active and continues to track journalists’ activities.”

“Since 2015, almost half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa assessed by RSF have used cyber-censorship, at least 10 of them in the past year alone. These include the DRC, Mauritania (down three at 97th), Malawi (down one at 69th) and Ethiopia. Chad holds the record in this regard, having cut off social media for 470 days consecutively, depriving journalists and citizens of access to essential news outlets.”

In concluding its analysis, the RSF said “At a time when misinformation is increasing, the next decade will see historic choices for journalism in Africa. Societies, where factual accuracy and open discussion of ideas are cardinal values, must firmly and unequivocally support journalists, giving them legal protection, providing financial support that is not based on political favour in a precarious sector whose employees are vulnerable to influence, and expanding training facilities – still few and far between -- before and during a journalist’s career.”

The Press Freedom Index is published every year for almost two decades. It ranks 180 countries and territories based on "the level of pluralism, media independence, self-censorship, legal framework, and transparency," according to RSF.

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