Global Conference for Media Freedom: Summary of regional consultations in Francophone Sub‑Saharan Africa
- On October 8, 2020, Canada organized regional consultations on freedom of the press for Francophone sub Saharan Africa in preparation for the second Global Conference for Media Freedom. Twelve participants from 8 countries took part in the consultation. Discussions took place under the Chatham House Rule.
- Participants debated at length how artificial intelligence affects journalism in Africa. Although the challenges are clear, most participants agreed that new technologies will remain and that journalists need to adapt to the new reality rather than fight against it.
- Participants also focused on 2 other imminent threats, from their perspective: freedom of the press in Africa (the ongoing existence of restrictions imposed by governments) and the politicization of the work of journalists, which has led to a loss of trust among information users.
Artificial intelligence, digital technology and freedom of the press
Participants noted that artificial intelligence (AI) is a reality that exists, although its arrival in Africa may not be as advanced as in other markets. They called upon African media to adapt. Automatic content creation can make existing viewpoints stronger (and discourage critical thinking) and, at its worst, may deepen divisions within society (including religious and ethnic divisions). This content also bolsters what is “buzz-worthy” instead of information.
In this context, participants noted the limits of AI and the ongoing need to ensure that professionals maintain oversight. Participants called upon journalists and media organizations to adapt to technologies and use them effectively, thus contributing to their responsible use. The growth of AI has revealed the first signs of threats to freedom of expression and human rights. Therefore, it is the responsibility of governments to regulate innovation in AI to some extent and to adapt the legal frameworks, including to protect personal data and privacy.
Internal issues regarding freedom of the press
Participants noted challenges relating to the limits of the media’s professionalism. With the return of a multi‑party system in Africa in the 1990s, and the return of laws governing freedom of the press, there is politicization of African media.
Private (and public) media have been manipulated for political and personal purposes, and various editorial boards have imposed their own internal restrictions on freedom of the press. The economic model also affects Africa, where the purchasing power of consumers is more limited, giving more power to private investors and advertisers. To this is added a lack of training and regulation of professional journalism, which leads to a drop in the quality of journalistic content and a lack of trust between information users and creators.
Participants recommended the following measures to encourage freedom of the press in Francophone sub‑Saharan Africa:
- Participants called upon members of the international community to intervene with African governments to support journalists who are targeted by state authorities and to encourage the development and strengthening of regulatory frameworks for the press. In particular, laws need to be updated to acknowledge the specific issues that apply to new technologies.
Report a problem on this page
- Date Modified: