Briefing Paper

Promise and Peril: In Changing Media Landscape, Africans are Concerned about Social Media but Opposed to Restricting Access – Pan African Profiles

Africa’s media landscape is changing rapidly. Regular reliance on digital sources for news has nearly doubled in just five years, with more than four in 10 adults across 34 surveyed countries reporting that they turn to the Internet or social media at least a few times a week for news. While radio remains the most popular mass medium on the continent due to its accessibility and reach, digital media are reshaping information landscapes, and consequently politics, in remarkable ways. At the same time, governments’ interactions with media are changing, often in ways that are troubling for advocates of democratic development. Attacks on journalists and media houses are becoming more frequent, and governments are passing new restrictions on who can produce and share content. “Social media taxes” and full or partial Internet shutdowns are increasingly in governments’ toolkits as well. Leaders often cite real problems, including the spread of false information and hate speech, as justifications for these new regulations, but many people fear that governments are using these threats to stifle press and speech freedoms more broadly.

18 February 2022