African Journalists and ARTICLE 19 Urge the African Commission on Human and Peoples ‘Rights to Prioritize Protection and Safety of Journalists

The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), ARTICLE 19 and the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) expressed great concern over the appalling climate of insecurity faced by journalists in Africa.

 

On behalf of the three advocacy organizations, Omar Faruk Osman, president of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the Secretary General of the Eastern Africa Journalists (EAJA) delivered on Saturday, 30 April, a joint statement to the ongoing 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul.

 

The Statement highlighted that Journalists and media workers continue to be the subject of dangerous and violent attacks. These acts include killings, physical violence, legal and administrative harassments. It is disheartening to observe that in many parts of Africa, governments and non-state actors deliberately commit crimes against journalists with total impunity. This situation is exacerbated in conflicts zones.

 

In many African countries, undue legal restrictions such as overbroad national security and defamation provisions; and illegitimate tax and administrative measures are constantly used to silence and threaten critical voices.  Journalists who investigate corruption and other sensitive issues are generally intimidated by governments, physically attacked by security forces, militia, and other non state actors. This state of affairs shows that defamation and other content related laws are seldom used to protect the reputation of individuals or legitimate interest. Instead, they are often used to unduly protect public figures and officials from the public scrutiny.

 

Besides the abuse of legal provisions, safety and security of journalists and media workers on the continent has increasingly deteriorated due to targeted killings in conflicts zones, detentions centres and by organised crimes. In addition, other security threats, destruction of equipments, physical and physiological attacks continue to stifle free speech and the work of independent journalists.

 

In Somalia, which remains Africa’s most dangerous place for journalists, media professionals have been attacked, mutilated, kidnapped, arrested and even killed on countless occasions. Islamists groups and warlords continue to take over media house and brutalize journalists.

 

In Zimbabwe, the long awaited reform of media laws and policies promised by the unity government remains yet to be a reality. The violence against journalists is increasing ahead of the referendum and elections.

 

In Cameroon and Senegal, frequent and abusive legal actions by key public officials have put journalists at tremendous personal risk. In Burundi a journalist was recently persecuted for treason and was sentence with life sentence.

 

Eritrea still remains the worse jailer of journalists in Africa with more than 30 journalists in jail without being charged since almost a decade and despite the 2007 decision of the ACHPR condemning such detention. Many of the journalists in detention have no access to families, legal or humanitarian assistance. Some have been reported dead and others in serious ill health.  Urgent action must be taken by the ACHPR and the AU to free these journalists now.

In the Gambia, despite the recent talks between journalists and government, the tension and climate of fear among journalists instilled after so many years of oppression remains and continue to hamper the work of independent journalists.

 

The violence and threats against journalists and media work is exacerbated by the lack of adequate protection at the national and continental levels and the rooted impunity that perpetrators continue to enjoy across the continent.

 

“We urge the African Commission to give priority to the protection and safety of journalist, particularly in armed conflicts and adopt a resolution on safety and security of journalists in Africa in line with UN Security Council resolution 1738 and UNESCO resolution 29 on safety and protection of journalists,” concluded Omar Faruk Osman.

 

 

For more information, contact:

Omar Faruk Osman, FAJ; Email: omar@nusoj.org ,

Fatou Jagne Senghore, ARTICLE 19; Email: fatouj@article19.org , or

The IFJ at :  +221 33 867 95 86/87 

The FAJ represents over 50,000 journalists in 38 countries in Africa