(Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)- A Pan-African conference on the safety of journalists
and the issue of impunity has opened yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The
two-day conference is organized by Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) in
collaboration with the Directorate of Information and Communication (DIC) of
the African Union Commission (AUC) and the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Journalists’ leaders, governments’ representatives, UN officials, press freedom
activists and African Union Commission’s officials as well trade unionists are
meeting to discuss strategies aiming to move forward the campaign for the
promotion of the safety of journalists and the end of impunity of crimes
session was addressed by FAJ President Omar Faruk Osman, UNESCO Assistant
Director-General for Communications and Information J?nis K?rkli?š, and UN
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions professor
Christof Heyns. The chairperson of African Union Commission Dr Jean Ping, IFJ
President Jim Boumelha and ITUC-Africa General Secretary Kwasi Adu-Amankwah
also sent statements of support to the meeting.
In his address, FAJ President Omar Faruk Osman warned that African journalists
still face high levels of violence and that the culture of impunity for such
crimes fuels climate of fear which leads to self-censorship in media. “Safe
journalism empowers journalists to perform at the highest potential of their
skills and passion in delivering high quality information to the public,” said
“When journalist can act without fear, secure in their person and their
profession, they are empowered to bring vital information to the people. They
become agent of democracy and freedom,” he noted. “The impunity for violence
against journalists deserves the equal attention to crime targeting
governments’ officials and international civil servants in their official
The IFJ President praised in his message the achievements of African
journalists under FAJ leadership in putting their safety on the political
agenda on national and regional level. The successful advocacy which led to the
adoption of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights of a resolution
on the safety of journalists in 2011 was cited as a case in point. Mr Boumelha
highlighted the work the IFJ has been conducting on the global level to raise
awareness about the safety crisis in media, both in Africa and elsewhere in the
world. These included lobbying international institutions such as the UN where
the IFJ and FAJ delegations recently met the UN General Assembly President to
urge drastic action on the promotion of journalists.
The IFJ President listed a number of actions the international community should
take in this regard. They include the need for the UN Security Council
Resolution to give more prominence by naming and shaming offending countries,
an annual meeting under UN auspices with journalists and their organisation to
discuss the safety and impunity, the consideration to be given to the use of
media development aid and the link between the aid and safety of journalists as
well as the need for donor countries to scrutinise the countries’ records on
safety and impunity while deciding to grant aid.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
executions Professor Christof Heyns underscored the importance of protecting
journalists, describing their rights to safety as ‘meta right’.
“This is the right upon which the realisation of other rights depends,” said
Professor Heyns. “The killing of a journalist is not just a crime against the
victim but also a serious threat to all journalists who resort to self-
The ITUC-Africa General Secretary Kwasi Adu-Amankwah supported FAJ’s campaign
for the safety of journalists who are operating, noting that this is in the
interest of democracy.
“When a journalist is violently targeted and such attack is wilfully left
un-investigated and perpetrators not prosecuted and sanctioned, impunity is
established. And when such practices become the norm, impunity is entrenched.
The growing culture of impunity with respect to attacks on journalists” said
UNESCO Assistant Director-General for communication and Information J?nis
K?rkli?š said that safe journalism in Africa is a main priority for his
organisation which works closely with the Special Rapporteur of the African
commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on freedom of expression and access to
information and civil society in promoting media safety. He recalled that the
UNESCO World Press Freedom Day was established by the Windhoek Declaration,
twenty years ago. He added that Africa represents a strategic partner in the
implementation of the UN plan of action on the safety of journalists and the
issue of impunity which was adopted by the UN Executives Board.
Officially opening the conference, Ambassador John Shinkaye, Chief of Staff in
the Bureau of the Chairperson of the AUC, representing the AUC Chairperson H.E.
Dr. Jean Ping, pointed out that Journalists and media workers in Africa are
continued to be subject of most dangerous and violent attacks and said
"policies must be developed and implemented to minimize the risks faced by
He noted that the role of governments in ensuring the safety of journalists is
particularly important, as it will be up to the political will of African
leaders to spell out the measures necessary to help protect journalists.
According to the Chairperson Ping’s speech, “the African Union Commission
has undertaken to enhance media freedom, capacity, knowledge, research and
access to information in the continent a tangible and irreversible reality” he
underlined that that the Commission is moving forward on its effort to build
consultative mechanisms for sharing views, dialoguing and carrying free
discussions on the media development at the African level.
Later, in a meeting with a delegation from the conference, Dr. Ping reiterated
his belief that Africa has made tremendous progress towards free flow of
information. He hoped more will be achieved in the future if resources are
available for training but urged journalists to change their mind set about
Africa. The Chairperson, who is stepping down in this year, expressed his
confidence that his successor, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma of South Africa will
show the same commitment to the protection of safety of journalists. FAJ
President Omar Faruk Osman thanked Dr. Ping for his support to the promotion of
journalists’ safety under his tenure.
Journalists’ leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Nigeria,
Tunisia and Somalia presented reports on the safety of journalists in their
counties. The conference will agree an action plan leading to the adoption by
the African Union of a binding resolution to ensure effective protection of the
safety of journalists.
The Pan-African Conference on Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity is
the second meeting on safety of journalists organized by the Federation of
African Journalists in collaboration with the Directorate of Information and
Communication of the African Union Commission. The first meeting was held on
September 2010 at the AU headquarters in collaboration with the National Union
of Journalists of Great Britain and the British Trades Union Congress (TUC).
This conference, which is held ahead of UN conference on safety of journalists
in Vienne in November 2012, is also a continental follow-up of the UN
Inter-agency meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity
that took place in September 2011 in Paris, France.
For more information, please contact IFJ on +221- 33 867 95 87
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries