Every year on May 3rd, we celebrate International Press Freedom Day, an occasion that highlights the importance of freedom of expression and the role of journalists in promoting democracy, transparency, and accountability. This year’s theme is “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights” emphasizing the fact that freedom of expression enables the enjoyment and the protection of all other human rights.
The theme resonates with Media Focus on Africa’s (MFA) mission to stimulate social change through the media. For over two decades, MFA has been working with journalists, media organizations and civil society groups across East Africa to enhance media professionalism, increase access to information and amplify the voices of marginalized communities through various innovative TV and Radio projects.
MFA recognizes that the media is a critical tool for shaping public opinion, influencing policy decisions, and holding those in power accountable. However, the media’s effectiveness is only possible when journalists can operate freely and without fear of censorship, intimidation and or harassment.
In many parts of Africa, journalists face significant challenges in their work. They are often subjected to physical attacks, legal harassments and financial constraints that limit their ability to investigate, report and disseminate information. This has a chilling effect on freedom of expression and undermines the public’s right to know.
MFA works to support and enable freedom of expression and freedom of the media by providing training and capacity building journalists and convening media stakeholders’ roundtables for conversations and dialogue on the most pressing freedom of expression and freedom of media challenges. Through our programs, we equip journalists with the skills and knowledge they need to produce high-quality and informative content that serves the public interest.
As we celebrate International Press Freedom Day, MFA reiterates its commitment to promoting media freedom, pluralism and professionalism across East Africa. We recognize that freedom of expression is a catalyst for the enjoyment of all other human rights and that journalists and media are an essential cog in safeguarding our freedom of expression. This year’s celebrations comes against the backdrop of fighting in the Sudan and opposition protests in Kenya.
“Access to reliable official information is of critical importance during times of crisis. Trustworthy news and images may help protect civilians and contribute to diffusing tensions. Journalists are often the source of this information, but many times they’re also the target of the parties in a crisis, e.g., the recent attacks on journalists covering the opposition called demonstrations in Nairobi in March. Press freedom and freedom of expression demands that journalists’ safety be guaranteed by state and non-state actors alike at all times and especially during times of crisis such as now” Harrison Manga, country Director at MFA Says.
We call on governments, media stakeholders and civil society organizations to support and protect journalists’ work and promote a free, independent, and vibrant media landscape in Africa. This is the only way to safeguard freedom of expression and catalyze the enjoyment of all human rights by all.