State actors are responsible for a majority of press freedom violations in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new pilot study released by IPI this week. Of the 116 press freedom violations documented across 29 sub-Saharan African countries between April and June of 2022, more than 75 percent involved abuses or overreach by police, security forces, regulatory bodies, courts, or other state authorities.
This finding is based on data collected by IPI as part of a new three-year project aimed at improving the environment for press freedom and the safety of journalists in Africa. Violations were monitored and documented in four main categories: physical, verbal, and online attacks against journalists or media outlets; arrests, detentions, or charges and imprisonment of journalists; cases of censorship or the use or introduction of policies and regulations that limit freedom of the press; and restrictions on access to information.
IPI collected data on these violations from media reports, press freedom groups, and journalist associations across Africa, and then fact-checked the information with the help of journalists, civil society, and members of IPI’s network.
“This pilot report sheds light on the nature of press freedom violations and what types of challenges independent journalists face in so many countries in Africa ranging from physical threats and harm to arbitrary arrests and detentions”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “Our monitoring work also provides concrete data about a deeply worrisome trend that many journalists and civil society know already: that state authorities themselves are most often the source of these violations and abuses.”
We plan to use learnings from this pilot period to develop an expanded methodology for collecting data on press freedom violations in Africa, which will be reflected in future reports and fact sheets that can be used to promote press freedom and the safety of journalists across the continent.
Our monitoring and data collection activities will also work to support the Digital Platform for the Safety of Journalists, a multi-stakeholder project involving African media associations and networks, civil society, and intergovernmental organizations with a mandate to promote media freedom on the continent. IPI recently signed a partnership agreement to support the development of this platform.