Prof. Karikari advocates free media practice in Africa
Meia expert, Prof. Kwame Karikari, has said most governments in Africa had been hesitant to initiate policies to strengthen the media as an institution for the advancement and promotion of democracy.
He said records showed that most governments on the continent had the tendency to weaken media freedom and independence.
Besides threats of the state, Prof. Karikari said media freedom and independence had been at the mercy of “numerous debilitating systemic and environmental factors”.
He was speaking at the opening of the seventh edition of the West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards in Accra on the theme: “Media and democracy in Africa.”
The two-day event is the initiative of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), a CSO, aimed at promoting media excellence in the West Africa sub region.
Prof. Karikari further said the practice of democracy in some countries on the continent made the media and media freedom a veritable casualty.
He, however, said the opening up of democratic space enabled the emergence of independent media and a considerable freedom of the media in most countries in the last three decades.
Prof. Karikari, who was also a former Board Chairman of the Graphic Communications Group Ltd, said such freedom had not been sustained largely because the states had often not gone beyond making constitutional provisions for press freedom.
He also said the weak economic performance of most countries did not provide the media industry resources such as adequate advertising revenue to sustain the institution.
Prof. Karikari mentioned Ghana and Mali, among others, as some of the countries where the number of media establishments, especially radio and television, appeared to be more than their local economies could sustain.
Because television broadcasting was capital intensive, he said most private television stations also suffered from a dearth of quality programming.
“Many are reduced to long hours of cheap low quality entertainment videos and poor talk shows, while few private television stations cannot afford to produce news and current affairs programmes of appreciable professional standards,” Prof. Karikari added.
Also, he said, challenges bedeviling the newspaper industry had compelled some to establish Online publications.
“But freedom on social media is frequently threatened with bans and closures by governments, especially during elections,” Prof. Karikari added.
The Executive Director for MFWA, Suleimana Braimah, said sometimes people accused the media of not doing what it was supposed to do in terms of its effectiveness, watchdog role and being able to hold leaders accountable.
“The environment which the media can do its work is also fast deteriorating, that is why this year we are focusing the conversation on media and democracy on the continent,” he said.