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Africa’s Ten Most Press Friendly Countries in 2007

Last Updated: 6/13/2008 12:00:48 AM

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In many countries, the freedom of the press has been implied to mean that all people should have the right to express themselves in writing or in any other way of expression of personal opinion or creativity. ClickAfrique takes a look to see how that freedom has fared on the African continent.....

In many countries there are constitutional or statutory protections pertaining to freedom of the press
In many countries there are constitutional or statutory protections pertaining to freedom of the press

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters san frontiers) compiles and publishes an annual ranking of countries based upon the organization's assessment of their press freedom records. Small countries, such as Malta and Andorra, are excluded from the report.

The report is based on a questionnaire sent to partner organisations of Reporters Without Borders (14 freedom of expression groups in five continents) and its 130 correspondents around the world, as well as to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.

It must be noted that the index only deals with press freedom, and does not measure the quality of journalism. ClickAfrique has listed the continent’s top performers below:

= 1. Mauritius

Global Rank: 25
The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press. Daily newspapers and weeklies offer balanced coverage in several languages. They are often critical of both the government and the opposition parties. The press scene is dominated by two media groups - Le Mauricien Ltd and La Sentinelle Ltd - dominate the press scene. Private radio stations were introduced in 2002.

= 1. Namibia

Global Rank: 25
Namibia’s constitution provides for press freedom which is respected by the government. Broadcasters and the private press give coverage to the opposition, including views critical of the government. There are also several private radio stations. Reporters Without Borders says there is "no major obstacle to the circulation of news".

2. Ghana

Global Rank: 29
Ghana enjoys a high degree of media freedom and the private press and broadcasters operate without significant restrictions. Its media has been described as "one of the most unfettered" on the continent by Commonwealth Press Union. The private press is lively, and often carries criticism of government policy. Animated phone-in programmes are staple fare on many radio stations. Nearly one third of Ghanaians have access to the internet, and mobile telephones are becoming a significant source of news.

3. Togo

Global Rank: 49
Togo’s constitution provides for freedom of the press and an amendment to the 2002 media law outlaws the punishment of press offences by imprisonment.

4. Mauritania

Global Rank: 50
The year 2007 was distinguished by a rare experience in Mauritania: balanced coverage of all political players during the presidential election campaign. Despite the fact that journalists face many complex challenges in the country, freedom of press is alive and well in Mauritania.

5. Mali

Global Rank: 52
Although there are laws that provide harsh penalties for slandering public officials, they are rarely invoked making Mali's broadcast and print media amongst the freest in Africa.

6. Benin

Global Rank: 53
Previously hailed as having a vibrant media landscape and an example of good practice in West Africa, Benin of late has raised some eyebrows mainly because of excesses against a section of the press which flourished in Cotonou, in the wake of presidential elections.

7. Tazania

Global Rank: 55
Since the advent of the multi-party era in the mid 1990s Tanzania's media scene, once small and largely state-controlled, developed rapidly with the launch of a state run TV 7 years after the first private TV station. There are dozens of private FM radio stations, although most are hindered by a lack of capital investment.

8. Madagascar

Global Rank: 61
Although nationwide radio and TV broadcasting remain the monopoly of the state, there are hundreds of private local radio and TV stations. Following the 1990’s law on the freedom of the press there was a boom in the privately-owned FM radio stations and more critical political reporting by the print media.

= 9. Bukina Faso

Global Rank: 68
While criticism of the government is tolerated, any challenge to the head of state, Blaise Compaoré and his closest allies, remains a high-risk exercise.

= 9. Zambia

Global Rank: 68
Zambia’s broadcast are dominated by state owned radio and TV stations with private radio stations offering little political reporting. The authorities make use of several laws, including libel and security laws, to intimidate journalists, especially those who have reported on corruption. Defaming the president is a criminal offence.

10. Central African Republic

Global Rank: 71
While a media law passed in 2004 abolished prison terms for press offences and private newspapers criticise government policies and alleged corruption. It seems to have a limited impact because of their cost of the papers and the high level of illiteracy. UN-sponsored Radio Ndeke Luka ("bird of luck"), which broadcast from the capital, provides balanced output, and rebroadcasts international news programmes.


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