By Glenda Daniels

The Wits LINK Centre and WitsX  have just announced that registration is open for a free, six-week, online course on  “Media Freedom and Freedom of Expression in Africa”.  The course starts on 4 October. The course is now running in its second year.

This free-of-charge massive open online course (MOOC), available on the global edX platform, aims to empower activists, students, regulators, journalists, lawyers, and everyone interested in ensuring a free, pluralistic and independent African media.

When societies achieve this kind of media, they can benefit from journalism playing a critical role in democracy and development. This is the policy context whereby journalists inform citizens, defend freedom of expression for everyone, and enable access to information that some people would prefer to keep covered up.

The course honours the legacy of South African media freedom and freedom of expression activist #Jeanette Minnie, who passed away in November 2016. Minnie devoted her professional life to ensuring robust civil society engagement with African media policy. She was a media activist who developed massive experience in understanding the challenges and who knew how to make changes for the better.

Part of the team designing the course, Paula Fray CEO of frayintermedia says:

“The Mooc really gives media activists in Africa the chance to celebrate Jeanette’s work in promoting media freedom in a way I think she would have most appreciated.” The course design, Fray said, takes learners through all the basics about media policy and why good media policy is based on fundamental human rights, but also shows learners how to advocate for better media policy in their contexts.”

“Africa has some of the best media policy on offer in the world, which we do not celebrate.  Namibia, for instance, is the first country to develop a single code of conduct covering print, broadcast and online media content in the world.”

“The course includes case studies of civil society activism in different countries, showing successes, remaining and emerging challenges,” she adds.

Fray was heartened by the feedback from media activists, students and journalists who took part in the first MOOC. The feedback was that the course not only helped them understand the challenges facing media across the continent but also gave them the tools to begin to engage in advocacy for freedom of expression, media freedom, and access to information.

In the course, participants get to grips with:

  • identifying the core elements of freedom of expression, media freedom, and access to information in a fast-changing world
  • pinpointing the policy and practical components required by a democratic media ecosystem
  • analysing laws and regulations that build media pluralism and diversity
  • assessing mechanisms of self-regulation, co-regulation, statutory regulation and regulatory independence in democratic media ecosystems
  • exploring the practical and policy dimensions in relation to online media, online expression, and online information access, and
  • building strategies for effective civil society engagement with policy and practice in support of democratic Africa media ecosystemsParticipants can take this interactive course, including its discussion forums, assignments and assessments, free of charge. Those who who wish to also receive a Verified Certificate of Achievement for the course, endorsed by edX and Wits University, pay USD49.

Guy Berger, Director of Freedom of Expression, UNESCO who supported the idea of such a course at its inception says: “This kind of free public education about free expression and media policy in challenging times is very commendable. The knowledge that people can get from the course can help make progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – especially Target 16.10 which calls for “public access to information and fundamental freedoms”.”

The course instructors are Prof. Justine Limpitlaw (Wits LINK Centre), Paula Fray (frayintermedia), Zoe Titus (Namibia Media Trust), Prof Sarah Chiumbu (University of Johannesburg), and Koketso Moeti ( The course content was developed by the instructors and WitsX with support from the course’s international Advisory Committee and frayintermedia.

Limpitlaw who also runs the project at the Link Centre, at Wits explains the collaborative way in which the course was put together:

 “The course has been put together in a collaborative way by a team of international experts on media freedom in Africa. We have had input from experts in Eastern, Western and Southern Africa as well as international bodies such as UNESCO. All of these people were motivated by the extraordinary life of the late Jeanette Minnie who was dedicated to working for freedom in Africa and her particular focus were the areas of freedom of expression and access to information. She always believed that the pen is mightier than the sword.

“In her work she pushed hard for (and often won!) legislative and policy reforms in favour of media freedom and was dedicated to training civil society media freedom activists. She recognised the need for informed, skilled, activists who knew their way around legal and policy debates regarding what a democratic media regime (print, broadcasting and online) looks like. Online platforms such as the EdX platform opens up a vast array of knowledge for those with access to the internet.”

Limpitlaw explains that anyone, anywhere in the world can access and participate.

“We were delighted with the massive response to last year’s offering: students from all over Africa (and elsewhere) were engaged in learning about media freedom issuesand what can be done, through six different African case studies of successful media freedom campaigns undertaken by civil society, to change media regulatory environments on the continent.”

The centre is hoping for even more enrolments this year.

Funding for course research, development, piloting and marketing has been provided by Free Press Unlimited, Bertha Foundation, Namibia Media Trust (NMT), and fesmedia Africa. Marketing support is being provided by frayintermedia and fraycollege.

Participants wishing to enrol for the course should please go to this edX course link. 

  • Glenda Daniels is associate prof media studies

For more information on the course, and to arrange for media interviews with course instructors, please contact:

Patience Shawarira, fraycollege
Tel: +27 11 782 0535
Mobile: +27 74 883 1716