5th Bagauda Kaltho lectures

2023 Bagauda Kaltho Media Lecture

The 2023 Bagauda Kaltho Media Lecture organized by the Africa Media Development Foundation, AMDF was held on the 19th September via zoom with the theme: “Press freedom laws and policies in Africa: Upholding or undermining journalism”. The meeting was anchored by Grace Maikano.

In her welcome remarks, the Executive Director, AMDF, Sekyen Dadik introduced the organization and gave a background on the media lecture, which was named after James Bagauda Kaltho, a Nigerian Investigative Journalist who disappeared mysteriously in 1996 as a result of his journalistic work.

A brief biography of James Bagauda Kaltho was read by Grace.

Thereafter, the main paper was presented by the Founder, Kaduna Media Academy, Mal. Ahmed Balarabe Sa’id who spoke on
Press freedom laws and policies in Africa: upholding or undermining journalism?

He stated that in concept and context, Press Freedom permits flexibility and lends itself to different dynamics. These dynamics range relatively in extent and extensions which are either historical, cultural, technological or a combination of some or all, depending on the societies.

Importantly, these extensions, he noted, create a complex ambiguity in evolving a consensus about Press Freedom. Consequently, this underscores the relativity of whether laws and policies of free press uphold or undermine practice in Africa.

He noted that, the presentation attempted to raise the assumptions beyond laws and policies in relation to historical shifts in societies and their marketplace.

He appraised Africa’s ‘Free Press’ from two current Reports: “State of Media Freedom and Safety of Journalists in Africa”, produced by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) with support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 2022 and the 21st Annual Press Freedom Ranking Report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 2023.

This revealed that “In Africa many areas of journalistic practice have been criminalized in countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, with the adoption of cyber crime laws. Vague laws are being used to silence critical journalists and content producers in countries like Kenya, Nigeria Tanzania and Uganda.

He maintained that a central purpose of the Press is to encourage the existence of an informed electorate that can make decisions about public affairs. As originally envisioned by Enlightenment philosophers, it is supposed to elevate society.
In other words, to raise the moral quality of society is to raise the moral quality of the speaker or writer.

He added that, Freedom of the Press is dependent on three aspects of the communication process: acquiring, processing and disseminating information. Hence, the key issues to focus priority should be advocacy on socially responsible patterns in use of technological innovations;
Openness and transparency; and
Democratization of spaces for greater access and participation

This was followed by a discussion on the paper with emphasis on country specific situations moderated by Zhiroh Jairus Jatau. The Panelists were journalists from different African countries namely: Hanad Ali Guled, Somalia
Uju Nwachukwu, Nigeria and Espoire Iradukunda, Burundi.

Iradukunda gave a brief insight on Burundian press freedom laws and policies. On the cases in Burundi, he stated that since 2014, “we have seen a shift, many things have been happening, as there is no any clear policy regulations or rules in Burundi, 99 percent of journalists in Burundi are all living in fear of being attacked, harassed and jailed”. This he said is most difficult for investigative journalists as there are no laws that protect journalist in Burundi.

Uju Nwachukwu from Nigeria gave a brief insight on Nigerian laws and policies, stating that press freedom is a fundamental pillar of any democratic society; it plays a very crucial role in informing the public, holding power to account and facilitating public discourse. She said it is important for journalists to balance between press freedom, press regulations and responsible press.

She stated that press laws in Nigeria still allow government intervention and that is where the thin line becomes invisible; with the Press Council established in 1992; National Broadcasting Commission NBC, Nigeria also have the Digital Media regulations and are still showing interest in regulations in the digital and social media.

She outlined some of the challenges Nigerian press face include; ambiguity in interpretation of laws, threats to journalists such as harassment and death,ownership concentration and Economic challenges.

She identified the need for a Free and responsible press through: self regulations, code of ethics, Media literacy, safety and security of journalists.

From Somalia, Hanad Ali Guled
stated that Somalia is one of the dangerous countries for journalists in Africa, as they are faced with so many challenges: lack of information; they can’t get access to information from government, lack of freedom of expression, and are faced with threat and harassment from the government. While some are currently in prison, some of them had to flee to others countries like Kenya for the safety of their lives.

Thereafter, contributions and questions were taken from participants.

Also the Courage in Journalism Award was presented to Breeze FM 99.9 Lafia, Nassarawa State, Nigeria by Mr Joseph Edegbo, in recognition of their bravery and preserverance in journalism practice in spite of the demolition of the station in 2017 by then government of Mal. Tanko Almakura.

Responding, the Station Manager, Tongdyen Moses on behalf of Dr Lawani Aboki, who dedicated the award to their teeming listeners, appreciated AMDF for the honour given to the Station, “we are deeply and immensely grateful for this recognition”.