At Summit for African Leaders, IFJ Calls for Release of Imprisoned Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the leaders of Africa meeting for their annual summit to free all journalists imprisoned on the continent as part of its ‘African Journalists out of Jail Campaign.’

“We are extremely worried about the situation of our colleagues in Ethiopia, Eritrea and The Gambia,” said IFJ Africa Office Director Gabriel Baglo just before the start of the African Union Summit in Ghana. “It’s time for urgent action, not more empty promises. We call on the Heads of State of Africa to free all the journalists imprisoned without delay.”

The IFJ said that 13 journalists are languishing in jail in Ethiopia at the Kality prison in Addis Ababa. At least 15 other journalists are held incommunicado in jail in Eritrea. In The Gambia, journalist “Chief” Ebrima Manneh was arrested in July 2006 and his whereabouts since then are unknown.

The IFJ held a press conference in Ghana with African media organisations, including the Network of African Freedom of Expression Organisations, the West African Journalists Association, the Ghana Journalists Association, Media Foundation for West Africa, Centre for Research Education and Development of Rights in Africa and the All Africa Editors Forum to call for the release of their jailed colleagues.

“We are hereby launching the ‘African Journalists out of Jail Campaign,’ which will pressure African governments, especially those of Ethiopia and Eritrea, to free all jailed journalists,” Baglo said.

The media organisations issued the following demands to the Africa Union Commission and the heads of state of Africa who will meet in Ghana from July 1 through 3:

1- To instantly ensure the release of all journalists and media professionals imprisoned in Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia and elsewhere in Africa;

2- To institute measures to end impunity for those who attack journalists and media professionals.

3- To order the reopening of all media outlets closed down by governments.

4- To create conditions for the return of exiled journalists to their home countries.

The IFJ also reminded the African leaders that Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, DR Congo, Swaziland and Somalia each have more than 100 of their journalists in exile.

“The intimidation and threats to African journalists must stop,” Baglo said. “African and international media are exposing cases of harassment and persecution of journalists in many African states, which continue to make the headlines. We are calling on governments to protect journalists and ensure that they can work freely and safely.”

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in more than 115 countries