Africa’s press freedom continues to decline

May 3, 2017

On the occasion of this year’s World Press Freedom Day the United Nations’ secretary-general Antonio Guterres has called for an end to the crackdown on journalists who he described as a “voice of the voiceless”.

“We need leaders to defend the free media. This is crucial to counter misinformation and you need everyone to stand for our right to truth. I call for an end to all crackdowns against journalists because a free press advances peace and justice for all. When we protect journalists, their words and pictures can change our world,” Guterres said.

The 2017 World Press Freedom Index rankings are based on a range of criteria that include transparency, diversity of opinions represented, the legislative environment, and the industry infrastructure necessary to inform citizens.

The arrest and incarceration of journalists, as is the case in Cameroon, where reporter Ahmed Abba drew a 10-year sentence last month for “his failure to denounce acts of terrorism”, increases the degree to which abuses are calculated in the ranking.

Apart from Eritrea, three other African nations – Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea and Sudan – appeared among the 10 worst countries in the world for press freedom. Egypt, Libya and Somalia also rank poorly.

African nations showing some of the most troubling drops in their rankings include Tanzania, where cases of abductions, arrests and torture occur frequently. The east African nation dropped 12 points in the rankings; Uganda fell by 10 points, and both Gabon and Ethiopia dropped eight points.