Africa: media and free speech

“People in Africa don’t have the freedom to speak freely and hold governments accountable,” says Nqobile Sibisi of Highway Africa’s Future Journalists Programme.

The lack of internet connectivity in Africa means the continent’s media tends to lag that of other regions of the world, says Nqobile Sibisi, coordinator of Highway Africa’s Future Journalists Programme, a partnership between Rhodes University and the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Another of the obstacles faced by African media are the governments’ offline and online controls. “In the 21st century we live in a democratic era and you can’t curb journalists from performing their function, to perform the liberal role of informing the citizenry,” she says. A final challenge is the absence of free speech, says Sibisi: “People in Africa don’t have the freedom to speak freely and hold governments accountable.”

(Photo by Multimedia Photography and Design-Newhouse School under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence.)

This interview by FSD team member Brian Pellot is the first in a series from World Press Day in Tunisia. Other interviews are with Lauren Wolfe, director of Women Under Siege; Moeed Ahmed, head of new media at Al Jazeera; Amy O’Donnell, radio project manager at Frontline SMS; and Kevin Bankston, director of free expression, privacy and intellectual property at The Centre for Democracy and Technology.

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Automated machine translations are provided by Google Translate. They should give you a rough idea of what the contributor has said, but cannot be relied on to give an accurate, nuanced translation. Please read them with this in mind.

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    “hold governments accountable”–interesting: how do we do this even in our so-called free democracies? Vote them out, that’s all we can do. What is more important is, How do we hold individual ministers of state accountable for their misdeeds, such as engaging in unjustified wars that kill thousands of decent young men and women? Here in Canada we have a government that is despotic. The prime minister has an office of personal staff of over 100 people, thanks to which he succeeds in silencing all his party MPs and preventing all expressions of dissent. He even has a veto over the selection of candidates for an election. The press are critical but ineffectual. Litigation is impossibly costly for the individual; and even vocal and wealthy organizations such as the National Citizens’ Council and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation never initiate litigation against the government or ministers.

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford.

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