- Nigeria ranks top on the list of press predators in West Africa, the Accra-based Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) revealed in its annual report. The regional media watchdog documented 168 cases of violations in 15 of the 16 West African countries, compared to 148 attacks registered in 2005. No single case of abuse had been reported in Cape Verde.
Africa's most populous country recorded 32 cases of press freedom rights, which represents 19 percent of abuses in West Africa. Gambia, the country with the smallest population and land size, follows with 16 percent of abuses with 27 cases.
Of the remaining 67 percent, Liberia recorded 12, Ghana 11, Cote d'Ivoire and Niger 8, Guinea-Conakry 7 %, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Benin followed with 5 , 4 and 6 percents respectively.
Togo, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso and Mauritania recorded below 3 percent of abuses - which for the first time puts Togo and Mauritania on a regional top position regarding press freedom.
MFWA said it was concerned about the increasing attacks on press in the region, especially in Nigeria, which recorded the murder of an editor at the end of 2006.
The report, according to MFWA, might exclude "several possible other acts of violation that have not been noticed, observed or reported." The Accra-based foundation is known to be very poorly funded and thus has not been able to pick up on all incidents in the vast region.
"It is likely that some of the areas with low 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 cities," MFWA noted, adding that "low cases do not necessarily mean less harmful violations".
Except for The Gambia, that had exhibited "the worst and generally more violent repression, most cases do not necessarily represent the cruellest violations".
While most cases in Liberia were perpetrated by security personnel, Ghana had recorded attacks by both security and individual members of society.
Liberia's seeming many cases was not an indication necessarily of an abhorrent situation. They do not represent state policy or endorsement. They are mostly acts by errant security personnel, MFWA pointed out. The Gambia also recorded violations by security officers and obnoxious media laws.
"The 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. "
MFWA officials said the general situation for the press in West Africa was regrettable because constitutions of each and every country professes to protect press freedom.
The MFWA called on human rights organisations, political parties, political leaders and civil society organisations who cherish democracy to join the foundations and free expression advocacy organisations to intensify activities to protest against such violations.
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