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May 20, 2024
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West Africa’s Journalists Highlight Govt Environmental Neglect

At a webinar organized by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in Accra, Ghana, to commemorate this year’s edition of World Press Freedom Day, some West African journalists accused the political leadership of the region of refusing to tackle environmental issues plaguing the region.

World Press Freedom Day, held every May 3rd, highlights the challenges faced by journalists who act as society’s watchdogs.

The Executive Director of MFWA, Sulemana Braimah, said leaders in the region are more concerned about their desire to grab political power while ignoring existential issues of climate change exacerbated by environmental degradation.

Mr Briamah, in his opening remarks, at the two-hour webinar, called for accountability journalism in addressing the problems of environmental crises in West Africa.

In the same vein, Kenneth Ashigbey, a member of a media coalition against illegal mining in Ghana, said journalists must be supported to expose perpetrators of environmental degradation.

Mr Ashigbey, a media manager, highlighted some of the worst environmental issues to include illegal mining, deforestation, poaching, and sand mining.

He pointed out that these activities pollute farm lands and water bodies from Ghana to her West African neighbour, Côte d’Ivoire.

An award-winning Ghanaian journalist, Erastus Donkor, recalled a horrific experience he had while reporting on illegal mining at a forest reserve in Ghana.

“We were at a forest reserve reporting on illegal mining in Ghana, but the vigilante group guarding the miners detained me and my cameraman for five hours. They punched my driver in the face, vandalised the car windscreen and cameras just to destroy our evidence of the illegal activities,” Mr Donkor recalled how he and his crew members were brutalised.

Mr Donkwor corroborated Mr Ashigbey’s concerns when he said fresh water bodies are being contaminated, while the Ghanaian government tries to suppress accountability reporting with “disinformation.”

In his account, Haruna Salisu, a Nigerian journalist, said reporting on environmental pollution in the country’s northeastern region had caused him enormous discomfort. “The situation in Nigeria is frightening,” Mr Salisu, who hails from Bauchi State, said at the webinar.

“The government would conspire to deny journalists access to vital information. It would also send thugs after you for trying to expose issues like illegal mining and logging in games reserves,” he said.

Another journalist from Cameroon, Line Reene Batongue, said illegal logging and mining constitute some of the worst forms of environmental degradation in the country.

The journalists called for collaboration between members of the civil society organisations in addressing lawsuits that are filed by big corporations and powerful individuals against reporters who engage in environmental reporting.

They also proffered solution journalism as a way of sensitising locals in mining communities on the impact of environmental pollution on their wellbeing with a view to seeking redress in court.

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