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Africa

Supporting African media to press on for press freedom

DW Akademie is marking World Press Freedom Day and the 25th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration by supporting the publication of a newspaper and a special online edition on press freedom in sub-Saharan Africa.

Logo des Projekts WHK25

#WHK25: Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the historic Windhoek Declaration for independent and plural media in Africa

On May 3, 1991, journalists from across Africa gathered in the Namibian capital to adopt a groundbreaking document: the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press.

The Declaration emphasized the importance of a free press for developing and maintaining democracy and economic development.

Few people know that World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually on May 3, is inspired by the Windhoek Declaration. World Press Freedom Day not only celebrates the importance of this historic document but gives people the chance to pay tribute to media professionals who risked or lost their lives in the line of duty.

Together with its partner, the Media Institute of Southern Africa ( MISA), DW Akademie has helped to publish the views of 40 journalists and media experts, reviewing progress made over the past 25 years and analyzing the state of media freedom and expression in sub-Saharan Africa.

But is there reason to celebrate?

Yes, there is, say some of the authors. The Declaration has had an impact far beyond what was expected of it 25 years ago. The media landscape in Africa has changed dramatically: independent media are flourishing all over the continent; some restrictive laws have been changed; and more journalists are able to work in a more professional manner.

Others say no, and point to restrictive colonial-era media laws that still exist in many countries. Moreover, they argue, state media organizations continue to push government agendas; women's voices and perspectives are still grossly under-represented; and journalists (and bloggers and whistle-blowers) are still harassed, imprisoned and killed.

Then there are numerous new challenges as well. How can traditional media stay relevant in the digital age - and why should they? Is the internet a "two-faced monster" or a revolutionary breakthrough? How can it be used for new forms of news gathering and distribution? How can we ensure that all citizens will have access to information?

The " African Free Press" newspaper and online articles try to address all these topics and more. Our partner MISA wants to encourage readers and viewers (offline and online) to get involved in the struggle for the right to freedom of expression.

Journalists cannot win this struggle on their own and the rights of free expression and access to information belong to all citizens.

Sharing views on press freedom

"As a journalist and someone passionate about the future of African media, I found the opinions and reflections on media freedom in Africa in this special edition to be essential reading - and also inspiring. It identifies the most pressing challenges, and moreover, moves the debate about media freedom forward," said Natascha Schwanke, head of the Africa Division of DW Akademie.

Tansania Polizei attackiert einen Journalisten in Dar es Salaam

Threats to journalists are still common

The Regional Director of MISA, Zoe Titus, said: "The Windhoek Declaration is at the core of MISA's work advocating for media freedom and access to information. By making these articles readily available for anyone to use, we wanted to ensure that media across the continent could offer citizens the analysis and views of leading African voices about media freedom - a fundamental element of functioning democracies."

Namibia's three largest newspapers, The Namibian, Die Republikein and New Era, all distributed The African Free Press as a special edition on April 27, 2016. The newspaper will also be made available on May 3 at various WPFD events across Africa and in partnership with other media freedom organizations.

All articles and images from The African Free Press special online edition (www.whk25.misa.org) are also available to download in digital format for publication by any media organization for free.