This week African leaders gather in Johannesburg for the 25th African Union Summit, where they will discuss a range of topics, from ongoing conflicts to trade. What will likely not appear on the agenda, however, are the governance challenges that are holding citizens across Africa back.
Here are five pressing democracy and human rights issues the AU needs to confront as well as recommendations on how to get started:
1. Dismal State of Press Freedom
Over the past decade, press freedom has seen the largest decline of any other fundamental freedom in Africa, according to Freedom in the World 2015. Authoritarian governments continue to use legal pressure, imprisonment, and other forms of harassment to suppress independent reporting. According to the Committee to Project Journalists, 48 journalists were in prison across sub- Saharan Africa at the end of 2014 and 152 journalists were forced into exile between 2009 and 2014 – more than any other region in the world. Even the region’s democracies are taking steps to censor the media. Last year, for example, Botswana used a sedition law to charge an editor and journalist for publishing an article critical of the president. As a result of these negative trends, only three percent of Africans live in countries with a free media.
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