The annual press freedom ranking released by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres-RSF) has shed light on the state of media freedom in African nations. The 2023 edition highlights the impact of disinformation and propaganda campaigns, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. While some countries have seen improvements, others have witnessed significant declines.
Edugist examines the top ten highest-ranked African countries, according to the RSF, as well as the challenges faced by those that have fallen in the rankings.
1. Namibia (22nd)
Namibia takes the lead among African countries in terms of press freedom, securing the 22nd spot globally. The country’s commitment to media independence and the absence of repressive laws contribute to its high ranking. Namibia serves as a positive example for other nations striving to enhance their press freedom environment.
Freedom of the press is firmly anchored in Namibia, historically one of Africa’s best-ranked countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. The political and legislative environment is conducive to the free exercise of journalism.
2. South Africa (25th)
South Africa follows closely in 25th place, exhibiting a relatively robust media landscape. Despite occasional challenges, including cases of violence against journalists, South Africa maintains a diverse and independent press that plays a crucial role in the country’s democratic fabric.
3. Cape Verde (33rd)
Cape Verde stands out as a beacon of press freedom, occupying the 33rd position globally. The archipelago nation ensures a conducive environment for journalists, where they can operate freely without significant restrictions.
Cape Verde stands out in the region for a favourable working environment for journalists. Press freedom is guaranteed by the constitution. Nonetheless, the heads of state-owned media, who dominate the media landscape, are appointed directly by the government.
4. Seychelles (34th)
Seychelles also secures a commendable ranking, placing 34th globally. With a vibrant media sector and a legal framework that protects journalists’ rights, the nation demonstrates a commitment to media freedom.
Attacks on press freedom are quite rare in Seychelles. The environment tends to favour the practice of journalism.
5. Gambia (46th)
Gambia, known for its democratic transition in recent years, ranks 46th globally. The country’s progress in promoting press freedom is commendable, considering its turbulent past.
Gambia has seen considerable progress in terms of press freedom since the end of Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year dictatorship in 2017. The criminalisation of defamation was declared unconstitutional in 2018, attacks on journalists have decreased, and new media outlets have been launched. Journalists now enjoy greater freedom to report and express their opinions.
6. Ivory Coast (54th)
Côte d’Ivoire’s media landscape is among the most politicised and polarised in West Africa. Journalists are sometimes summoned for questioning by prosecutors, and some are subjected to physical or verbal attacks. It is not uncommon for newspapers to be suspended.
Occupying the 54th spot globally, Ivory Coast has made substantial strides in press freedom. The country has witnessed improvements in media regulations and the safety of journalists, fostering an environment conducive to free expression.
7. Burkina Faso (58th)
Burkina Faso, despite facing security challenges, ranks 58th globally. The country has demonstrated a commitment to press freedom, with journalists actively participating in the democratic process and reporting on issues of national importance.
Burkina Faso had until recently been considered as one of the success stories of Africa regarding freedom of the press. But growing violence and political instability linked to the coups in January and September 2022 have had a very negative impact on journalists’ security and access to information.
8. Niger (61st)
Despite an encouraging decrease in the number of press freedom violations, the regional context marked by efforts to combat terrorism still has a significant impact both on journalists’ safety and the population’s access to information.
9. Ghana (62nd)
Ghana, long regarded as a democratic model in Africa, secures the 62nd position globally. The country’s commitment to press freedom is reflected in its diverse media outlets and legal protections for journalists.
Ghana enjoys a vibrant and pluralist media environment. However, the creation of media outlets by politicians has given rise to politicised and biassed media content.
10. Mauritius (63rd)
Mauritius completes the list, ranking 63rd globally. The island nation boasts a strong tradition of media independence and freedom, allowing journalists to report on a wide range of topics without significant constraints.
Mauritius may be hailed as one of Africa’s model democracies, but its media landscape is highly polarised. Online attacks against journalists have increased.
The RSF press freedom ranking offers valuable insights into the state of media freedom in African countries. While some nations continue to make progress, others face challenges such as disinformation, political interference, and attacks on journalists.
It is essential for governments, civil society organisations and media professionals to work together to safeguard press freedom, allowing journalists to operate without fear and ensuring access to accurate information for the public. The ranking serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding press freedom as a cornerstone of democracy and transparency in Africa and beyond.