Terrorists Are Targeting Media Houses MFWA

Edetaen Ojo, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), has observed that media freedom and freedom of expression have been complicated by the emergence of terrorism.

Over the last several years, he recalled that countries like Niger, Mali and Nigeria have been afflicted by terrorism and the insurgence of the terrorists have spilled over into Chad and Cameroon, both neighbours of Nigeria in the east.

Mentioning recent experiences of terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso and La Cote d’Ivoire, Edetaen Ojo explained that the incidents of these terrorisms have implications for media freedom, freedom of expression and governance.

He stated: “In Nigeria, media organizations have been, with intent, targeted by terrorists as a result of their reporting of terrorists’ activities. “A number of journalists and media workers have been killed as a result while the premises of some media companies have been exploded.”

Other challenges, which the MFWA has to deal with, consist of some of the most brutal acts of repression inflicted on journalists and media organizations, mainly by governments and government agents.

Edetaen Ojo made the observations in his opening remarks at the West Africa Conference on Media and Participatory Governance held in Accra, on the theme: ‘Promoting professional journalism for good governance in West Africa’.

MFWA, he added, has been confronted with the task of ensuring broadcasting freedom in the Region, particularly the challenge of transforming state-owned broadcast entities into genuine public service broadcasters, as well as how to ensure independent and transparent regulatory frameworks for the broadcast sector.

However, he was glad to mention how some progress has been made in terms of the sheer number and diversity of broadcasters now operating in many countries in the Region, particularly in the community radio sector.

Furthermore, Mr. Ojo said there are now clear recognition on the continent of the important role of access to information in enabling good governance and providing people with the opportunity to attain their full potential, with the emergence of a number of regional instruments affirming the right to information and, in some cases, outlining procedures for the exercise and enjoyment of the right.

He said: “When Media Foundation was established in 1998, there was not a single country in West Africa or indeed the continent that had an access to information law. Presently, there are about 17 national laws in Africa, with seven in West Africa.

“Obviously, we have a lot to celebrate. But with only about 40 percent of the countries in West Africa guaranteeing their citizens the right of access to information and the challenges of implementation in virtually all of these countries, there is no doubt that much work remains to be done.”

Mr. Ojo called on the media practitioners to renew their commitment to work together in their respective countries and across the national borders to ensure that ordinary citizens are able to participate fully in the governance of their countries and that governments work for the people.

In spite of the challenges they are confronted with, Mr. Ojo said “it is clear that a lot of progress has been made as democracy has taken hold in most countries in the Region, although with all its imperfections”.

In his keynote address, Mr. Moumina Cheriff SY, Speaker of the National Transition Council (CNT), Interim Parliament of Burkina Faso, said the promotion of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press is the vital and sufficient condition for citizens of the various West African states to participate in governance.

In addition, the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press will enable citizens to demand audit, as well as efficient public services, from their leaders.

He argued that “if the citizens are not involved in decision-making and there is no capacity building for citizens so that they can have access to information and freely express their views on how they are governed, the stability of institutions will always be threatened and the development will not be participatory and may therefore be jeopardized.”

Mr. Cheriff SY warned that a State that stands against the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press is at risk of being destroyed “because it is militating against peaceful co-existence among citizens. The educational work of the media, he concluded, is needed by citizens to question, denounce and ultimately sanction a government during election.