West African media firms hit by economic downturn

West African media organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to survive due to the tough economic climate.

Professor Kwame Karikari, executive director of the Media Foundation for West Africa said while there are still scattered attacks on the media and journalists in some West African countries, the most pressing concern for many independent media institutions is one of economic survival.

“The situation in West Africa is stable, but we still have to deal with many difficult occurrences. About three days ago, about two or three Nigerian journalists were murdered by unknown assailants. That kind of thing is a reminder of the bad days that we have seen in the past in a number of countries. Otherwise, the situation of the media in West Africa generally is now more a question of survival in terms of economic conditions for the operation of the media,” he said.

Professor Karikari said the current world economic downturn coupled with the lack of advertising is to blame for the plight of the independent media in West Africa.

“In West Africa, it is not because more people have access to new technology as a means to accessing information. But, it’s simply the question of difficult economic circumstances for citizens to buy newspapers, and also the difficulty of accessing advertising revenues because businesses in many countries are not vibrant. So, the private sector that should feed the media with advertising is so weak,” Karikari said.

He said even in some situations where there are advertising revenues in some countries, the state-owned media, particularly broadcasting media, almost always get the bulk of those advertising revenues.

Karikari said politicians in some West African countries sometimes use libel or the threat of such lawsuits to intimate journalists.
But, he said in most cases such libel suits are the result of poor professional standards on the part of some journalists. – VOA