Ghana tops in Freedom of Expression violations in West Africa during first quarter of 2022

General

Ghana underlined recent concerns about its deteriorating press freedom environment by recording 11 violations to emerge as the most repressive country in West Africa during the first quarter of 2022.

The Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) regional quarterly Freedom of Expression (FOE) report covering January-March, 2022, saw Ghana far outpacing troubled Guinea Bissau and Nigeria, where 5 violations each were recorded.

Otherwise widely admired for its democratic culture and respect for freedom of expression, Ghana has been recording a number of attacks on journalists and activists of late. The country slumped from 3rd to 10th in Africa and from 30th to 60th globally in the 2022 Reporters without Border RSF press freedom ranking.

Among other violations, Ghana recorded two incidents of physical attacks on journalists, one attack on a media organisation, as well as the arrest and detention of two journalists and one activist.

Attacks on media houses were also recorded in Nigeria (2) and in Liberia. This brings the number of media houses attacked during the period to four.  There was one incident of internet shutdown in Burkina Faso, where four violations were recorded amidst the political and social turmoil in that country.

An abortive coup in Guinea Bissau cast a shadow over the press freedom environment in the country. Some hooded soldiers attacked Radio Capital FM based in the capital, Bissau, and the home of one panelist on a political programme that discussed the coup was attacked by security officers. An outspoken human rights lawyer was also threatened.

Generally, West Africa has been democratic with a relatively strong culture of tolerance and respect for divergent opinions and press freedom. Citizens’ participation in national discourse is encouraged by the explosion of media outlets and access to social media.

There have, however, been fears of a rollback of progress made in democracy and freedom of expression following recent coups in Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali over the past year.  Read the full report here