Prof Guy Berger of Rhodes University has published a comprehensive overview of media legislation
in ten multi-party African democratic countries with a constitution.
Phakamisa Ndzamela reviews the book.
In each of the democratic countries surveyed – Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mocambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and South Africa – Berger makes an overview of media legislation which relate to freedom of expression, freedom of the media, laws relating to the status of journalists, laws on ownership, laws and regulations on licensing the media, the right of accessing information, laws on reporting the courts and many other relevant laws.
Berger makes a critical analysis of the factors that contribute to the existing legal situation in these ten countries. In his analysis, Berger contends among many issues that in half of the countries surveyed ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œmedia policies are out of date or not explicitly articulated and/or developed in final form by respective governmentsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
Berger further contends that in some of them, there are tendencies of bureaucrats and police to show minimal respect for the media. Berger discovers among many problems that there is some level of fear by many governments ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œof allowing a free flow of ideas and opinionsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
In many countries, Berger finds that media information, laws and policies are not very easy to find. He also notes a lack of implementation of the many media related international and regional accords signed by these countries.
The study appears just when the United Nations and the rest of the world celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Among the provisions insisted upon in the UDHR isÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Article 19 which states: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œEveryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
However, the study also comes at a time when there have been events that have threatened freedom of the media across Africa.
Research and analysis of existing media legislation in Africa is quite minimal and Berger should be commended for coming up with such a study. The study is ground breaking and one hopes that media personalities, institutions and all those concerned about media in Africa will use this study to improve theÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â health of the media in the continent.
Media Legislation in Africa: A Comparative Legal Survey by Guy Berger, published for UNESCO by the School of Journalism and Media Studies , Rhodes University.