After the recent AU summit in Kampala, and Kenya’s constituional referendum and only a few days before the much talked about Rwandan presidential elections, one may be led to think that political changes and democratic progress take place only thanks to powerful leaders and key events. In many ways this is a completely flawed argument; elections can improve the democratic culture in any society (as some political scientists, like Stefan Lindberg have argued ), elections however are never enough. A democratic society needs to be sustained on a daily basis, and while legislative bodies and the judicial systems are expected to keep executives in check, this is more often the exception, and not the rule in most countries – outside and – within Africa.
When this is the case, citizens rely on the media and journalists to be able to know what their leaders are up to, and to keep public opinion updated of whatever deals their leaders are making . It is for this reason that it is important to recognise and defend the freedom of expression and the media in all countries. Especially in countries which lack democratic credentials – like Angola, where Rafael Marques de Morais, of whose work I have written before here, yesterday just published a new report on the corruption of the Government. Or in those where journalists come under attack: recent examples of which affect the most diverse places: from a “usual suspect” like Swaziland , to Rwanda, where elections will be taking place in a few days, to those countries like Cote d’Ivoire where democracy (or at least elections) is taking a long time coming, and where a journalist and a blogger were over two weeks ago arrested for not revealing their sources, albeit they were later released. Here and here you can read the two pieces written on the story by Elia Varela for Global Voices.
But not only there, even the suposedly democratic leader in the continent – South Africa – has recently given people a cause to worry, as a journalist was arrested yesterday for writing a journalis critical with the police chief.
For all these reasons, African journalists’ work, as that of journalist elswhere, deserve to be praised, and that of groups like the Committee to Protect Journalist recognised as a necessary – albeit sometimes unnoticed – aspect of the democratic process.
*As you have probably guessed, the title of this blog post is borrowed from The Guardian’s daily editorial space of the same title, and dedicated to varied topics going from the supreme court, to the courgette, to cite the last ones.