Press Freedom in Peril: A Surge in Imprisoned Journalists Across Africa


Eritrea stands as the continent’s starkest example of journalistic suppression, with 16 currently imprisoned – most since 2001.

CPJ-Chief Executive Officer Jodie Ginsberg/Image Courtesy

Alarming shadows are falling across Africa’s press landscape, with a new Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report revealing a chilling rise in press freedom violations.

As of December 1, 2023, at least 67 journalists are imprisoned across the continent, their voices silenced behind bars.

Eritrea stands as the continent’s starkest example of journalistic suppression, with 16 currently imprisoned – most since 2001. This grim reality serves as a stark reminder of the long-standing struggle for press freedom in the country. Other nations like Ethiopia (8), Egypt (13), Cameroon (6), Senegal (5), and Rwanda (4) also contribute significantly to this troubling tally.

The report sheds light on several key concerns plaguing press freedom in Africa:

  • Repressive Laws and Vague Charges: Governments weaponize ambiguous charges like “terrorism” and “criminal defamation” to silence critical reporting.
  • Targeted Silencing: Journalists covering conflict and political unrest, particularly in Ethiopia and Cameroon, face heightened risk of imprisonment.
  • Digital Shadows: The growing use of digital surveillance and online harassment aims to intimidate and silence journalists.
  • Women Journalists at Risk: The number of imprisoned women journalists is rising in countries like Senegal and Ethiopia, raising concerns about gender-based targeting.

CPJ calls upon African governments to take immediate action:

  • Unconditional Release: All imprisoned journalists must be freed immediately, without preconditions.
  • Repeal Repressive Laws: Laws that criminalize journalism must be abolished to create a conducive environment for press freedom.
  • Accountability for Attacks: Thorough investigations into attacks on journalists are crucial, with perpetrators held accountable.
  • Independent Press: Governments must foster an environment where the press can operate freely, safely, and independently.
Muthoki Mumo

“The imprisonment of journalists for their work is not only a grave injustice but also a direct threat to democracy,” declared Muthoki Mumo SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA REPRESENTATIVE

. “African governments must uphold their commitments to press freedom and ensure that journalists can fulfill their vital role without fear of reprisal.”

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