Malawi ranked top in Africa on free speech – Afrobarometer

Malawi has been ranked top of the countries in Africa with freedom of speech according to the recently published report The Partnership of Free Speech & Good Governance in Africa.

Malawi records 79 percent in a survey that included 34 countries across the continent.

Released by Afrobarometer  last week in Kenya, in the survey Tanzania follows on second with 77 percent of the people interviewed, Liberia third on 75 percent, Ghana on 74 and Tunisia 73.

Zimbabwe and Swaziland from the Southern Africa fall in the bottom which has Sudan at the bottom while Togo second bottom.

Malawi President Joyce Banda: Free speech in Malawi
Malawi President Joyce Banda: Free speech in Malawi

Ivory Coast is on third from the bottom while Zimbabwe on fourth  from bottom and Swaziland on fifth.

According to the countries where people feel least free, only about one in four feel they have unrestricted opportunities to speak their minds. Bottom of the log are Sudan (19 percent), Togo (21 percent), Cote d’Ivoire (21 percent), Zimbabwe (22 percent) and Swaziland (24 percent).

Most of Africa’s biggest nations fall somewhere in the middle, with 34 percent of Nigerians, 52 percent of South Africans, 53 percent of Egyptians and 55 percent of Kenyans feeling completely free to speak.

The Afrobarometer report was written by Professor Winnie Mitullah, director of the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, and Paul Kamau, senior research fellow at the same institute.

Malawi’s Minister of Information Browm Mpinganjira said the report reflects the reality on the ground, saying “free speech means good governance.”

In a news release issued with the report, Afrobarometer said: “Where people feel that they are free to say what they want, they also report that their leaders are more trustworthy and less corrupt than do their peers, the survey shows.

“Freedom of expression is also consistently linked to better ratings of government performance, especially with respect to government effectiveness in fighting corruption, but also in other sectors such as maintaining roads and managing the economy.”

Fifty-seven percent of Africans support “an unfettered right to publish”, the report says. This support is highest in East Africa, where 72 percent want press freedom, and lowest in West Africa, where the figure is 52 percent.

Afrobarometer adds that citizens rank their media highly for exposing government mistakes and corruption: “An average of 71 percent say the media in their country is either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very effective’.

“But this average masks wide differences, from 40 percent in Madagascar and 43 percent in Zimbabwe, to 80 percent or more among Malawians and Egyptians.

East Africans are much more likely (81 percent) to rate their media as effective watchdogs compared to all other regions.”

Afrobarometer is a research project coordinated by independent institutions in Ghana, Benin, Kenya and South Africa, with partners in 31 other countries.

It has been surveying public opinion in 12 countries since 1999, but has grown to include 35 countries for the period 2011 to 2013. It interviewed more than 51,000 people in 34 countries for the current survey.

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