2017 World Press Freedom Index

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Africa’s journalists, victims of terrorism, armed conflict and election crises


Media freedom violations seem to be taking a growing toll on journalists in Africa. The biggest deterioration was seen in South Sudan (140th), which fell 15 places in the Index. In this country torn by civil war since 2013, journalists fell victim to the conflict’s violence and a campaign of intimidation by the authorities.

Countries with political crises fell in the rankings. In Republic of Congo (115th), Uganda (102nd) and Djibouti (172nd), a presidential desire to hold on to power led to pre-election violence against journalists and harsh, government-orchestrated censorship of the media. As a result of the president’s obstinacy in Burundi (156th), the leading independent media were destroyed, more than 100 journalists fled abroad and Burundi fell 11 places in the Index.


A collapse in the rule of law and an increase in violence in certain regions account for the decline in countries such as Nigeria (116th), where journalists were threatened by both Boko Haram members and state agents. The presence of Jihadi groups had a direct impact on freedom of information in countries such as Mali (122nd), where in 2015 a terrorist group called the “Guardians of Hell” threatened to behead all foreign and Malian journalists working for foreign media.


Eritrea (180th) came last in the Index yet again. Nothing has changed in this country, where freedom of information is not just flouted but is literally abolished. The authorities half-opened their doors to foreign journalists, who were controlled very closely, but kept the doors of their prisons firmly shut on local journalists.


At the opposite end of the scale, Namibia was Africa’s best-ranked country at 17th place. Its constitution guarantees media freedom, its journalists are safe, its media landscape is diverse and no restrictions are placed on the Internet.