Comoros, September 2019 – Media4Democracy and Consortium Partner European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) have completed a two-week mission to the Union of Comoros, mapping the media sector to identify ways to strengthen freedom of expression and promote media development. Working with the EU Delegation to Madagascar and Comoros, two Media4Democracy experts followed a political economy approach – considering the media and institutional landscapes and how dynamics and actors interact to drive or supress media freedom and, in association, democracy. During the visit, the team met with a range of interlocutors across the media, civil society and institutional landscape, as well as with small emerging operators active in the digital economy.
Near the close of the field mission from 9 – 20 September, the Media4Democracy team briefed representatives of the EU Delegation on early research findings and discussed possible entry points to engage on the matter.
Comoros has long been affected by political instability and the revisions of its Constitution in a contested referendum in 2018 has centralised political power and reportedly increased media and civil society self-censorship. Made up of three islands with strong separate identities, the media sector in Comoros was one of the latest to emerge in Africa, mostly emerging after the mid-1980s. The country’s strong oral tradition has given rise to many community radio stations centred on various village communities. Yet, the national TV and radio operator is still directly run by the State. No private broadcaster operates at a national level, and the independent printed press distributes only a limited number of dailies mostly among the institutional elites in Moroni, the capital city. Recent investments have been made to develop digital communication infrastructure, which could offer new avenues to explore for developing new media formats and contents that could prove better suited to engage with the country’s relatively large diaspora.
The field mission concluded with the convening of a workshop on 20 September bringing a dozen representatives of print and broadcast media houses, government agencies and regulators together with younger tech and communication entrepreneurs. The objective was to encourage brainstorming across the generational divide in the media sector and to identify possible development opportunities.