Everywhere in the world, democracy and press freedom have been natural companions, but the two arguably have a special relationship in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the struggles for independence from colonial rule, in the wave of post-colonial movements that ended military regimes and dictatorships, and in the efforts today to hold governments accountable, the demand for press freedom, citizen voice, and pluralism has frequently been at the vanguard.
That relationship, unfortunately, works both ways. Where democratic institutions in the region have been hollowed out in recent years by colluding political and economic elites, so too has media pluralism been slowly eroded by the influence of the powerful: authoritarians have left standing the artifice of democratic institutions and press freedoms in the region, while disabling them from within.
In Pathways to Media Reform in Sub-Saharan Africa, Herman Wasserman and Nicholas Benequista lay out a vision for how the continuing struggle for vibrant, independent, and plural media systems in the region might more effectively bolster efforts of democratic revitalization. The report draws on the input of 36 experts in media and governance from 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa who med in Durban, South Africa, in July 2017, and it deepens the insights and ideas that came from this group by documenting previously successful media reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa. What these efforts highlight is the urgent need for a broad, cross-country coalition capable of strategic action in response to new threats to media freedom in the region.