Media and Democracy in Africa: Mutual Political Bedfellows or Implacable Arch-Foes


It is nearly a decade since most African countries embarked on what Samuel Huntington has popularized as the "third wave of democracy". The proliferation of political institutions, the liberalization of the economic and political landscapes, the regularity of elections hitherto unheard of in certain African countries, and a decline in military coups in the 1990s, have all signaled that a momentum towards democratic consolidation on the continent is on the increase. Yet, these formalisms of procedural democracy have also concealed a much more profound pattern of declining press freedom on the continent, as African governments, under the guise of constitutional rule, have resorted to the enactment of suppressive laws against an increasingly critical media. In most of the new democracies, as this paper attempts to show, new parliamentary bills that are hostile to the media, are increasingly being promulgated, and this includes countries that have traditionally been considered democratic. This paper posits the question that, given this evolving trend, and considering that the media is the mirror of society?s freedom, can we authoritatively conclude that democracy is gaining momentum in Africa?


Download PDF