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In Defence of Press Freedom in Africa

An Essay

by Tatah Mentan

When Africa stumbled into independence in the 1960s, the blossoming of newspapers of nearly every political persuasion was widely hailed as a critical stepping stone toward true multiparty democracy. However, rather than marking a clean break with an authoritarian past, the era of multiparty politics in Africa has been a time of increased hardship and repression for journalists who dare criticize powerful incumbents. Media repression continues to rise. After decades of retreat, authoritarian regimes are using social media and other sophisticated systems in a new era of repression to thwart democracy and trample human rights. For consecutive decades, the state of freedom has declined – more people in more places face more repression. While systemic torture in war-torn Somalia and the return of a military dictatorship in Egypt captured headlines, there is also widespread, insidious and 21st-century style surveillance elsewhere with abuse or imprisonment or both of political activists. For the media to play its role as priests of democracy, Tatah Mentan maintains that media freedom must be rigorously defended as integral to the democratic way of life.

ISBN 9789956762866 | 94 pages | 216 x 140mm | 2015 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback



“Many may speak of muzzling the press in Africa, but few actually understand it. Professor Tatah Mentan is one of the continent’s best informed and concerned veteran journalists. He has lived the agonizing passage of African journalism from hosanna singers and entertainers of dictatorships to weapons of mass deception in the hands of phony democracies imported from Western aid donors. In this book he has made a spirited defence of freedom of the press, offering insights into what made for bad politics and bad journalism in the past and offers an extraordinary guide for how to employ journalistic tools bail Africa from cognitive domination from above and brutal repression at home. It is hoped that Tatah Mentan’s unblinking defence of press freedom in Africa can lay to rest the hypocritical official pronouncements on democratic freedoms from Cairo to Cape Town and from Banjul to Maputo. Rarely has a book been more timely and urgently needed. Whether one agrees with the author’s defence or not, this is a must read for those concerned with Africa’s future.”

Tim Jones, International Herald Tribune

“It is clear that press freedom in Africa is crying to be defended from power hungry politicians, overzealous administrators and regulatory boards seeking reward from their paymasters, incompetent security forces, religious fanatics and all those with skeletons in their cupboards. By revisiting the issue of press freedom, Tatah Mentan is once more bringing to the forefront an issue society must deal with on a daily basis and urgently too. The relevance of the matter cannot be gainsaid and it is up to the press corps and their natural allies to take cognizance of the fact that it incumbent on them and no one else to stand at the frontline of the battle for press freedom.”

Sam-Nuvala Fonkem, United Nations Mission, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire



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