By Agaptus Anaele
As we ponder over some of the activities of kwame Nkrumah reputed for his Pan Africanism, the freedom of the media remains an important element in African development. The media including traditional newspapers, electronic media were instrumental to Nkrumah’s achievements. Perhaps the political feats recorded by Nkrumah may have been difficult without the media. Through his evening newspaper, The Accra Evening News established in 1948, Nkrumah consistently launched fierce attack at colonial government adding to his demand for Ghana’s independence, “The gentlemanly dialogue of nineteenth century newspapers transformed into full-blown anti-colonial protest in the newspapers of the 1930s,” a commentator remarked. In addition to the conventional media, Nkrumah creatively utilized unconventional means to communicate with his followers while in detention. His ingenious mass communication included scribbling words in tissue papers, which was transmitted to his retinue of supporters who implemented the strategies.
The colonial government occasionally attempted gagging his public awareness through censorship, but he rebuffed the attempts. I could not agree more with Nkrumah on the importance of the media in the struggle for liberation and national development. No doubt, there is considerable increase in the number of media organizations in the region, but the trend in many of the African countries is disturbing. Formal, informal and subtle censorship of the media ranks high. Assassination of media practitioners seems to have taken a dangerous dimension. Hordes of Nigerian journalists have been assassinated for exposing corruption. Similarly, there have been reports of intimidation of journalists in Ghana and media institutions, ostensibly to cow them from objective reporting. Pockets of constitutional provisions that prohibit media censorship exist, but adherence to these stipulations remains a challenge.
African leaders must reconsider their approach to media censorship. Conscious efforts must be made to reevaluate the protection of the media institutions because they represent important mediums to actualize development in Africa. We must not allow attempts to cover our weaknesses in office to take precedence over national interest. Africans must effectively utilize the digital media that has expanded the global media landscape. The media remains an important element for checks and balances. We must all support media freedom to advance development in the continent.