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Media Foundation for West Africa releases its state of the media report

Political crises and violent conflicts in West Africa created the conditions for abuse of media rights in 2009, says a new report by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). "West Africa 2009: Annual State of the Media Report" says that in most countries, the perpetrators of press freedom violations were state security personnel or sympathisers of political parties. But there are also some positive stories of resilient journalists and countries that have protected press freedom.

Captain Moussa Dadis Camara's bloody crackdown on opposition voices and journalists in Guinea resulted in more than 200 people killed, and several journalists hiding to survive. In Nigeria, Bayo Ohu, an assistant news editor, was gruesomely murdered in his own home.

In Benin, the government has a stranglehold on broadcast media and newspapers routinely shower the government with praise; journalists self-censor after being bought by political parties.

Repression of the press in The Gambia gave birth to online radio and newspapers created by Gambians in exile, providing critical alternative news to counter propaganda from the state-controlled media.

Meanwhile, press freedom improved in Mauritania. The country's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz publicly supported media rights, "My intention is to encourage press freedom.... In spite of all the insults I have suffered, I have observed the principle of never attacking the media.... I believe that public figures who do not accept this principle had better change jobs."

And in Cape Verde, there were no recorded attacks against the press. In this country, the constitution protects journalists from revealing sources. "The country's political stability and peace have a lot to do with the atmosphere of tolerance to free speech," says the report.

For more information, read the full report:

Annual State of the Media 2009

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