Net is transforming African media

The development of the Internet in Africa is playing a vital role in transforming the media there, more than 200 African journalists agreed at a recent meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, marking World Press Freedom Day.

Unlike print or audiovisual media, the Internet has thus far been free of attempts by African dictators to stifle or censor content.

“The Internet is a way of getting around censorship, which is important,” said Gwen Lister, managing director of the Namibian, a daily Namibian newspaper.

Because the Internet offers African journalists the ability to write more freely, Pius Njawe, Cameroonian publisher of Le Messager Media Group and a renowned African press freedom activist, urged international organizations to provide technical, material and training support to the African press that want to begin online publishing. That support is one way to help close the digital divide, he said.

The Internet further offers African journalists a means to tell the world about how the press there is repressed, said Mwamba Wa Ba Mulamba, a journalist from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

During the meeting, which was sponsored by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the journalists learned that a new study conducted by Freedom House, a U.S.-based organization, found there are more than 3.1 million Internet users in Africa. Although that figure lags behind other continents, it still indicates progress. Most African nations, even those with repressive governments, are supportive of the Internet and its growth, the study found.