A conference of representatives of the ECOWAS, academia, journalists, and civil society organisations meeting on the theme: “The Media, Press Freedom and the Democratic Recession in West Africa” has bemoaned the return of instability to democratic governance in West Africa region. Citing military putsches in some West African countries as well as rise in terrorism
A conference of representatives of the ECOWAS, academia, journalists, and civil society organisations meeting on the theme: “The Media, Press Freedom and the Democratic Recession in West Africa” has bemoaned the return of instability to democratic governance in West Africa region.
Citing military putsches in some West African countries as well as rise in terrorism in others, the conference organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) Ghana, is worried on how protocols and conventions on democratic principles and institutions are being violated with impunity.
The two-day conference organised in partnership with West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network WADEMOS held on October 18 and 19, 2022 and had in attendance the Head, Democracy and Good Governance and Political Affairs Directorate of the ECOWAS Commission, Eyesan Okorodudu, and the regional body’s Resident Representative in Ghana, Baba Gana Wali.
The International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos, Nigeria and other organisations from 15 West African countries participated at the regional conference in Accra. As one of the partners of MFWA, the International Press Center, was represented by its programme Manager, Stella Nwofia.
Participants at the event
In his opening remark, Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director, MFWA bemoaned the regression in the progress made in the democracies and in the peace of communities over the years
“Within the last two years, we have had about five coup d’ etas which has resulted in military takeovers in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and we remember the failed attempt in Guinea Bissau.
“Apart from military takeovers and agitations for constitutional amendments, there’s also terrorism in the sub region and therefore we need to protect our democracy against all forms of threats.
“Furthermore, impunity against journalists continue to persist, even in Ghana which is known to be the beacon of democracy in West Africa.”
He asserted that democracy remains the most preferred form of governance and the media is needed in rebuilding the ongoing efforts in democracy
Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director, MFWA
Prof. Kwame Karikari, media expert and academic, in his keynote address focused on the media role in confronting the Democratic recession in West Africa submitting that independent media and civil society organisations working to promote democracy must engage regional inter-governmental agencies such as ECOWAS and AU to mount campaigns for governments to respect the protocols and conventions on democratic principles and institutions.
“For the media to be relevant and receive support, they must strive to uphold the high standards of professionalism and fight against the cheap but attractive path of unprofessional conduct. That is the only way self-respecting journalists and responsible media organisations can and will earn back the people’s trust and confidence”. he added.
He highlighted that critical media and opposition voices are silenced by a plethora of means.
“Undemocratic but dormant laws on the statute books are raked up and applied. These are common tools of punishment in Africa”.
He said, “Individual journalists of high standing are co-opted by appointments to boards and senior management positions in key institutions or SOEs”. On daily basis, ” democratic capture” which involves weakening, compromise and corruption of the rule of law fosters a culture of impunity”.
He urged the conference to come out with resolutions for strategies to enhance the roles of media in the struggle to defend, promote and strengthen the values, principles and institutions of democracy in our countries.
Ambassador Baba Gana Wakil, Resident Representative, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) implored media practitioners to promote rule of law, human rights, and democracy by setting the right agenda.
He called on the organisers of the conference to work out a plan to transform the conference into a yearly engagement to continually drive home the need for good governance.
He, therefore, encouraged the media to deal strategically with misinformation and disinformation which could be blamed for the recession of democracy on the continent.
The Project Coordinator of WADEMOS, Prof. Kwasi Prempeh, CDD – Ghana, charged CSOs to “begin to think locally and act regionally; and also to think regionally and act locally.”
“So, when you see democracy suffering in one country in the neighbourhood, it means it is time for you to get worried,” he said. He recalled that democracy emerged in West Africa from one country to another country in quick succession.
He said, “we are concerned that if we don’t band together and begin to think about this”, democracy might start taking a reverse from Africa in the same manner.
Prof. Kwasi Prempeh of CDD-Ghana, WADEMOS
Dr Emmanuel Eyesan Okorodudu of the ECOWAS Commission, who lamented the challenges of the emergence associated with emergence of citizen journalism, suggested self-regulation mechanism by media practitioners to avert “over-regulation” by the state. “With the inroad of citizen journalism, a lot of setbacks have come into the space,” he noted.
He observed that political actors have chosen to use citizens journalism from the backend to promote crisis that even democracy is finding difficult to manage. And because it is within the context of legitimacy of their roles, you can’t really question it.
He called on media experts to come up with strategic framework that ECOWAS could borrow from in its efforts to “enhance the respect for the rule of law, enhance the respect for human rights.” He also welcomed contributions to the ECOWAS policy document on roles of the media in promoting peace and security.
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