Africa's Media Deficit and Access to Knowledge

Telecoms and Internet Reports

Document type: Briefing Paper
Availability: Available
Publication date: 11 May 2018
Number of pages: 36

Price: Free

Access to information is a fundamental human right. Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights1 (ICCPR) links the right to information to freedom of expression includes the right to information:

When citizens have no access to media or only limited access to media their “freedom to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds” is restricted. Where this position exists, citizens are experiencing a media deficit that affects their access to knowledge. Therefore, this briefing paper

sets out to do two things:

  1. To outline the scale and extent of the media deficit and the general factors responsible for it in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. To provide an overview of the types of key players who might address this issue in policy, regulatory and practical terms.

    Citizens need knowledge, information and opinions from media to participate in the life of their country. Having limited access to media for whatever reason blocks their ability to access information through “media of (their) choice”, as envisioned by the ICCPR. Economic and social development requires widely accessible media to enable open and plural governance with citizens able to hear from and respond to communications from Government and civil society. Access to media (and the knowledge and ideas it supplies) is fundamental to the health of a nation2.


    The importance of access to information has also been highlighted by the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) declaration in its Application of Principles where it highlights Disadvantaged Communities stating that:” Governments have a particular obligation to facilitate access to information by disadvantaged minority groups and minority language speakers, as well as marginalised groups including women, children, rural people, the poor and persons with disabilities. Information should be available at no costs to these groups.

    Those with little or no access to media currently have so little choice that significant improvements in most cases can probably only increase the diversity and quality of media available to them.

    The ability of citizens to assess media critically is addressed in the recommendations in section 6.

    The discussion of Africa’s media deficit in this paper does not deal with two issues directly which should be explored in the future. These are (1) the diversity and quality of information suppliedby the media and (2) the ability of citizens to assess critically the information they receive from the media.

Price: Free