'Media repression affects economic growth'

DURBAN - The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-ifra) outgoing president, Tomas Brune, said Africa’s economic growth is declining due to governments’ interference with media freedom.

“While some countries on the continent have been recording impressive growth rates, media development and evolution still leaves a lot to be desired,” Brune told delegates at the 2017 World News Congress and World Editors Forum yesterday.

“The disadvantage with this is that taking the media’s voice away affects economic growth . . . We also see the manifestation of this in prohibitive pieces of legislation like South Africa’s Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill which will affect the independence of journalists and operations of a free press.

“I am aware other countries on the continent have similar legislation plans and this is an assault to press freedom,” he added.

With the planned passage of a bill which threatens press freedom in South Africa looming, Zimbabwe also has its Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill in the pipeline.

The country’s Information Communication and Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira is on record saying Zimbabwe is going to fast track the bills following the global WannaCry ransomware attacks last month.

The new law — which has attracted concerns from activists and opposition — will allow police to confiscate electronic equipment and raid broadband providers.

Also empowering police to intercept private communications, search and seize any “electronic gadgets,” the law will also send any “abusers” to jail for five years.

“Not only are such laws an assault on the right to digital privacy, but Wan-idea has expressed its deep concern that the government here is considering a range of measures that will intimidate the press, promote self-censorship,” the outgoing Wan-ifra president said.

Meanwhile, Turkish journalist and former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, Can Dündar, received Wan-ifra’s prestigious Golden Pen of Freedom.

The exiled scribe was recognised for his outstanding work in upholding the values of a free press along with his unwavering support for colleagues, some 150 of whom are currently in jail in his country.

On the side-lines Women in News bestowed the editor of NMG-owned The EastAfrican newspaper, Pamela Sittoni, with the Women in News 2017 Editorial Leadership Award alongside Egypt’s Karima Kamal, a columnist and contributing editor for the Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Yom, who was named the 2017 laureate for the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).

The award is part of Wan-ifra’s Gender and Media Freedom strategy, being spearheaded through support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

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