Photo: President Obama during his 2013 Africa trip. Credit: - Photo: 2021

Confronting Misinformation and Harmful News Content

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — News of working journalists in Africa is often a tale of threats, abduction, forced disappearance and arrest. 

Most recently, two Spanish journalists and an Irish national were abducted near a nature reserve in Burkina Faso. Government officials confirmed their deaths on April 2. It remains unclear who carried out the attack.

In Somalia, security forces detained and assaulted journalists and raided a private news outlet. Journalist Watipaso Mzungu was harassed in Malawi for calling the president “a joker.” A Nigerian governor threatened to “deal with” journalists who covered a corruption case. Similarly, two radio journalists in Guinea-Bissau were threatened with criminal defamation.

Muthoki Mumo, sub-Saharan representative of the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists is often the lone voice defending the lives of journalists in the Congo, in Cameroon, and in Guinea. 

But the days of impunity for those who openly attack the free press may be numbered. A movement of committed and courageous journalists has been growing in Africa—like a tree with many branches.

One organization, the Global Investigative Journalism Network, aims to enhance the capacity of journalists from countries in sub-Saharan Africa to carry out world class investigations. Currently there are 19 members organization on the continent sponsoring and/or conducting original investigative reporting,

This year, the AmaBhungane Center for Investigative Journalism scored a victory in a ruling on the surveillance of journalists. The judgement found that existing law failed to provide adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy, freedom of expression, the rights of access to the courts and legal privilege.

In Nigeria, Damilola Banjo set out to investigate corruption in the justice system. A writer for Sahara Reporters, her report “Justice for Sale” exposed how court clerks, prison wardens and other officials extort hapless victims, many of whom are wrongly accused of a crime.

“Doing investigative journalism in sub-Saharan Africa is fraught with challenges,” wrote Benon Herbert Oluka, a Ugandan multimedia journalist and co-founder of The Watchdog—a portal for solution journalism, trending news plus cutting edge commentaries.

“With the outbreak of COVID-19, the environment for undertaking investigative reporting in the region became even more difficult. Still, journalists across the continent continue to find innovative ways to serve their audiences, consistently churning out a host of remarkable stories.”

“When African newspaper journalists signed the Windhoek Declaration on May 3, 1991, it was hoped this would pave the way for the press freedom ideals journalists aspired for,” Oluka wrote.

The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, according to the UN body UNESCO, is “Information as a Public Good”. It calls attention to the essential role of free and professional journalists in producing and disseminating this information, by tackling misinformation and other harmful content.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 May 2021]

Photo: Protesting for freedom of the press. Source: Global Investigative Journalism Network

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