In October 2018, a newspaper editor from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was jailed for publishing articles criticizing a bank. The law used to prosecute her was from 1940, back when DRC was still a Belgian colony.
In Botswana, a former British colony, a newspaper editor at the Sunday Standard was charged with sedition for publishing a report that a former president was involved in a car crash.
In yet another former British colony, Kenyan TV stations were infamously kept off-air for 7 days in 2018 by a directive from the president after covering the "swearing-in" of his closest rival.
When African countries were fighting for independence, similar tactics were used by their colonial masters to keep the uprisings at a minimum. The independence movements then campaigned for media freedom. However, as soon as the countries gained independence, the focus shifted from media freedom. In a twist of events, the new incoming African governments chose to use the tactics of their colonial masters to keep their citizens in line. These governments overwhelmingly saw the media as opposition, and that is a trend that has continued up to today.
Efforts to completely decolonize Africa have often come to a screeching halt. In South Africa, for example, there have been ongoing attempts at replacing an apartheid-era law - 1982 Protection of State Information Act - with a new "South African" version. The ruling party, the ANC, has faced much criticism over the new bill, with critics arguing that it does not correctly balance the competing principles, and point to a number of provisions that undermine the right to access information and the rights of whistle-blowers and journalists.
These types of incidents occur all over Africa. It is, therefore, high time that we examined our laws governing journalism and ask ourselves of the value we place in democracy. Did we really gain independence if we are still living by the laws of our colonial masters or did we just gain black masters?
Header Image Credit - GoLegal