Africa as a continent has been suffering some sort of media censorship for decades. This is where the media is suppressed in its speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or ‘inconvenient’.
Media censorship can also mean the suppression of information from reaching citizens. Meanwhile, the media is veritable for information dissemination or the gate keeper in society.
Media censorship can be done by anyone including the government, private institutions and corporations. If an individual censors their own work, it is called self-censorship. This may be due to the fear of the potential punishment or backlash associated with their original piece of work.
In Africa, self-censorship seems to be the most common form of restraint next to police censorship. At the African Journalist for Economic Opportunity Training (AJEOT 2019), which came off at the Summit Lodge, Koforidua in the Eastern part of Ghana, the vice president and director for research of AJEOT, Evans B. Boampong, elaborated on media censorship in Africa.
He said press freedom has historically been a contentious issue in many African countries. Since the inception of World Press Freedom Index in 2013, many African countries have struggled to climb up the ranks despite improvement by some countries in terms of press freedom.
In countries like Eritrea, the media are totally subjected to the whims of the government. Only the state-owned media broadcasts to the populace, and the horrific aspect of all is the fact that less than 1 percent of the population can access the internet. In April 2016, Eritrea blocked Facebook and some social media outlets for a month.
Also, in Nigeria, press freedom is not complete. The media do not get a free room to deliver its mandate. The passing of the Cybercrime Act 2015 in Nigeria has violated the right to privacy and freedom of expression but rather protects politicians.
Another African country, Zimbabwe, is facing series of media censorship, where the government screens all information before presenting them to the populace.
Ghana is not left out in terms of media censorship, due to the fact that most of the media outlets are owned by political figures who are likely to censor information.
For some years now, Ghanaian journalists have been subjected to brutality. For instance, Ohemaa Sakyiwa of Adom FM, Ghanaman Wofaase Akwasi Addo of Pink FM, Abanga of Success FM and Ahmed Suale of Tiger Eye P.I, was murdered in cold blood in line of duty. Others have been physically wounded and assaulted.
However, despite all these censorships on-going in other African countries, Kenya stands as a good example of a free internet experience, blogging and a defined court process for removing defamation contents. These implementation strategies put in place deserves a commendation.
Media censorship is dangerous to every nation because it keeps the ignorant always in the state of ignorance. It deprives them of their right to information, violation of freedom of expression and the like.
To curb media censorship, the media has to speak freely and fearlessly about concrete conditions in their own states as well as other states. Also, the media must become an instrument for informing and mobilizing the people about their rights and obligations which calls for a collective effort.
>>>The writer is a student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ)