The decline in press freedom is a matter of concern in West Africa

This May 3, 2021 marks the celebration of the 28th World Press Freedom Day theme “Information as a Public Good” and the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration on Press Freedom. This dual event represents an opportunity for ARTICLE 19 to ring the alarm bell about the recurrent violations against journalists and the media in West Africa and calls on the governments of the sub-region to:

  • Guarantee the respect for freedom of expression and access to information;
  • Decriminalise press offenses and ensure the effective application of the measure by the authorities in charge;
  • Take effective measures for the safety of journalists and put an end to impunity for crimes committed against them;
  • Ensure the effectiveness of the independence of media regulatory bodies and speed up the facilitation of self-regulation mechanisms.

ARTICLE 19 also reminds ECOWAS to press its member states to guarantee access to sources of information by media professionals and to respect the rights of journalists in compliance with provision 66 of the ECOWAS Treaty on the Press.

Over the course of the period from May 2020 to April 2021, ARTICLE 19 documented more than 100 press freedom violations in twelve countries in the sub-region. These violations most frequently involved :

  • Attacks on the lives of journalists while on duty.
  • Physical assault and degrading treatment of journalists while on duty.
  • Destruction or damage of materials of journalists while on duty
  • Destruction of information, particularly of photos taken by journalists while on duty.
  • Arbitrary arrests, detentions and convictions of journalists
  • Online attacks and threats against journalists
  • Abusive shutdowns and signals cuts of media outlets as well as arbitrary fines
  • Attacks on the facilities of media houses and journalists’ residences
  • Internet blackouts and cyber-attacks
  • Political interference in the governance of regulatory bodies; etc.

Among these violations, 59 cases were documented in Nigeria, 20 in Senegal, three in Guinea, two in Côte d’Ivoire, four in Niger, two in Burkina Faso, six in Ghana, one in Guinea Bissau, two in Sierra Leone, two in Mali, five in Togo and one in Benin.   

These violations were mostly perpetrated by government officials in total impunity, and although investigations are either promised or initiated, they fail to produce results. Less frequently, violations are committed by civilians.

For more information, please contact

Alfred Nkuru Bulakali, Deputy Regional Director, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa 

Or Eliane NYOBE, Senior Program Assistant, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa:  

Tel: +221 77 553 13 87 or +221 33 869 03 22