Every year on 3 May the world marks Press Freedom Day. The purpose is to take stock of how the media are faring and what obstacles are being put in the way of journalists doing their jobs. The release of the World Press Freedom Index offers a useful benchmark to review developments and trends.

One area of particular focus in 2020 was digital media, which came in for particularly harsh treatment from governments. There were more than 150 full or partial shutdowns of the internet or social media like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp during the year across the world. South Asia accounted for almost three quarters of them. Africa was the next most affected region with 20 shutdowns affecting 12 countries. Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz argues that increased shutdowns will generate higher economic costs, as well as greater public outrage.

It wasn’t a great year for media freedom in Kenya either as the country once again slipped down the media freedom index. But Wambui Wamunyu points to a promising development – the emergence of a group of active citizens who are offering alternative sources of credible and useful information, refreshingly good news for a struggling industry.

You can find additional articles about media freedom around the continent here

Wale Fatade

Commissioning Editor: Nigeria


Restricting digital media is a gamble for African leaders

Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz, Michigan State University

Digital media shutdowns in Africa will lead to higher economic costs and greater public outrage.

Kenyan journalists and members of civil society marching on the World Press Freedom Day in 2018. Suleiman Mbatiah/AFP via Getty Images

As press freedom continues to struggle in Kenya, alternatives keep hope alive

Wambui Wamunyu, Daystar University

No matter what tactics are used to muzzle, restrict, limit, or censor information, trustworthy information that serves the public good can still find its way to those who matter most: the citizens.

Health + Medicine

New drugs work against the many strains of hepatitis C found in African countries

John McLauchlan, University of Glasgow

Direct-acting antivirals have mostly been used in countries with high incomes. These drugs would be effective against most hepatitis C strains. which are primarily low-income countries.

Trying to understand the use of drugs by women farmers in Nigeria’s Adamawa State

Saheed Babajide Owonikoko, Modibbo Adama University of Technology

Drug abuse among women farmers in Adamawa State, north east Nigeria, is rising.

Arts, Culture + Society

Now there’s a chance of justice for Thomas Sankara, it’s useful to review what got him killed

Leo Zeilig, University of London

Burkina Faso is still in the throes of chaos decades after the assasination of the charismatic president

South Africa’s romcom revolution and how it reimagines Joburg

Pier Paolo Frassinelli, University of Johannesburg

The rise of the black romantic comedy in South Africa dovetailed perfectly with the advent of streaming services - creating a box office phenomenon.

From our international editions

One incredible ocean crossing may have made human evolution possible

Nicholas R. Longrich, University of Bath

Given tens of millions of years, wildly improbable events – like primates crossing oceans – are almost a given.

Watching a coral reef die as climate change devastates one of the most pristine tropical island areas on Earth

Sam Purkis, University of Miami

Scientists watched in real time as rising ocean heat transformed the sprawling reef. It was a harbinger for ecosystems everywhere as the planet warms.

COVID vaccine weekly: India’s crisis deepens, but vaccine sharing is yet to materialise

Rob Reddick, The Conversation

Pressure is mounting to get COVID vaccines to where they are most needed.

Medical oxygen should not be a luxury – we’re trying to develop a cheaper way to produce it

David Fairen-Jimenez, University of Cambridge

A microscopic sponge can be used to trap oxygen from the air.

En Français

Café et changement climatique : la redécouverte d’une espèce sauvage prometteuse

Aaron P Davis, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Delphine Mieulet, Cirad

Tandis que le changement climatique met en péril la culture de l’arabica, la redécouverte d’une délicieuse espèce sauvage à la Sierra Leone pourrait redonner espoir aux caféiculteurs.

« Zootopique », un podcast d’anticipation : « Alerte sur les moustiques et les tiques » (3 / 5)

Benoît Tonson, The Conversation

Dans le podcast Zootopique, nous vous vous proposons une immersion en 2031 pour interroger nos relations avec les animaux.


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