MFWA Board Laments Democratic Recession and Worsening Media Freedom Conditions in West Africa

The Board of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has expressed deep concern over the apparent relapse of democratic governance and deteriorating conditions for media freedom in the region of West Africa.

At its recent meeting on 16 February 2022, the Council noted that recent coups in some countries in the region have very serious implications for democratic governance as well as for the promotion and protection of human rights. In the region. The Council’s concerns follow military takeovers in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, and a recent coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau.

The Council’s apprehension also comes at a time of growing public concern about a growing atmosphere of state repression against free speech and expression. It also comes at a time when there is an escalation of media rights violations in the form of physical attacks on journalists and media organisations, the application of obscure laws to effect the arrest and criminal prosecution of journalists. in almost all the countries of the region.

Council therefore called on the regional intergovernmental body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the international community, to take immediate action to help stabilize and advance democratic governance in the Region.

The council recommended that, as a matter of urgency, ECOWAS Member States jointly deploy their defense resources to fight terrorists and fundamentalist groups in the Sahel region in order to help improve security and humanitarian conditions in the Sahelian parts of the region in particular and throughout the region.

These and other concerns were contained in a seven-point resolution adopted by the Council after its meeting.

Below is the seven-point resolution adopted by the Board:

Resolution by the Board of Trustees of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) at its Meeting on February 16, 2022.

On February 16, 2022, the Board of Trustees of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) held a virtual meeting to review the work of the organization for 2021 and approve the work plan of the organization for 2022.

The meeting also focused on discussing a number of major issues affecting the regional context, including the wave of democratic recession in the region, declining conditions for press freedom and freedom of expression , as well as the general context of governance and human rights in the region.

The meeting, chaired by the President of the Council, Mrs. Sophie Ly Sow from Senegal, unanimously adopted and issued this seven-point resolution.

  1. The Council is deeply concerned about the growing wave of coups in the region and the serious implications for democratic governance in the region. In light of this unfortunate development, Council urges ECOWAS to urgently take appropriate measures to address the underlying factors that set the tone for the military coups. The Council also adds its voice to the appeals made to the military leaders of Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, to accelerate the processes of return to democratic rule in the respective countries.
  2. The Board also notes with concern the increasing levels of insecurity and humanitarian crisis in many parts of the region and in particular in the Sahelian parts of the region, which have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people and the displacement of millions of people. In light of the challenge, Council calls for prompt and vigorous action by ECOWAS to address the crisis.
  3. The Board is of the view that, given the scale and seriousness of the activities of terrorist groups in the Sahel region in particular and in the region as a whole, no country alone can deal effectively with the situation. . Council therefore calls on ECOWAS to urgently adopt a resolution that will enable Member States to marshal their defenses and deploy a multinational (ECOWAS) military operation against terrorist groups operating in the region.
  4. In order to further improve and consolidate democratic governance in the region, Council urges all leaders in the region to respect constitutional term limits and avoid the practice of amending constitutions in order to seek to govern beyond more than two terms. Council further urges the leaders of the region to strive to promote and protect the socio-economic and political rights of citizens; fighting corruption and ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of national resources.
  5. Council expresses its sadness at the deterioration of media freedom, freedom of expression and the continued shrinking of civic space in the region, which has been exacerbated by the sudden and widespread application of laws that criminalize expression and media offences. Given this development and its serious implications for democratic governance in the region, states in the region are urged to avoid the criminalization of expression. States in the region are also urged to decriminalize old laws that criminalize speech and press offences.
  6. In light of the deteriorating conditions of media freedom and freedom of expression in the region, the Council notes with deep sadness the very weak situation of national journalism associations in many countries of the region. It calls on the leaders of the various national associations of journalists to take steps to strengthen their respective associations so that they can effectively defend and support the defense of press freedom and freedom of expression in the respective countries.
  7. The Council is also deeply saddened by the fact that more and more of the few countries in the region which have championed freedom of the media and freedom of expression are ceasing their leadership role on these issues, and calls on to the resurgence of regional leadership on media freedom and freedom of expression issues. In this regard, the Board welcomes recent commitments by a number of governments around the world to reinvigorate efforts under the auspices of the Global Media Freedom Coalition to promote media freedom and safety of journalists around the world.

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