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Reported cases of press freedom violations in West African region decreased in 2007, says MFWA

(MFWA/IFEX) - The following is a 9 January 2008 MFWA press statement:

Press freedom violations decreased in 2007

The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) monitoring of attacks on freedom of speech and expression in West Africa shows a decline in the number of incidents of press freedom violations in the sub-region in year 2007.

One hundred and forty-two (142) cases of violations were recorded in fifteen of the sixteen countries covered by the MFWA in the sub-region, including Mauritania, as compared to one hundred and sixty-eight (168) in 2006.

Niger topped the list with twenty-three (23) cases of abuses of press freedom rights. Nigeria, the country with the largest population and land size, follows with eighteen (18) cases of abuses. Of the remaining figure, Sierra Leone and Liberia had fourteen (14) each. Ghana is fifth on the list with thirteen (13) cases. Guinea-Conakry and The Gambia, where there is state repression, followed with eleven (11) cases each. Senegal follows closely with nine (9) cases. Côte d'Ivoire recorded eight (8) cases, while Burkina Faso had six (6). Mali and Mauritania recorded seven (7) cases each. The last sets of countries that had cases ranging from 2-4 were Benin two (2); Togo three (3) and Guinea-Bissau four (4).

Cape Verde registered no case.

The MFWA notes that, as usual, this compilation may not include several other possible acts of violation that may not have been noticed, observed or reported. It is likely that some of the countries that registered a low number of cases may have been poorly monitored. Even for those where there appears to be more cases reported, not all cases may have been captured, especially if they occurred outside the capitals and big cities.

Moreover, the MFWA observes that while a low number of cases does not necessarily mean less harmful violations, more cases do not necessarily represent the cruellest violations, either. Two countries, The Gambia and Guinea-Conakry, exhibited the worst and generally more violent forms of repression, yet recorded numerically less than, say, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana.

This report only records violations against press freedom, and does not represent numerous other acts of attacks on free speech or violations of other realms of freedom of expression in the region, such as academic freedom, etc. However, Mali's small number of cases included one distinctly disturbing violation of academic freedom. Mali's cases also indicated a negative tendency away from the country's fine records in recent years.

The MFWA reiterates its numerous calls to human rights organizations, political parties, and their leaders and civil society organizations who cherish democracy to join the MFWA and free expression advocacy organizations to intensify activities to protest such violations.

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