(Bujumbura, 26 March 2014) - The Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) has re-launched its monitoring system in an effort to promote media freedom in the region.
The event is part of a regional workshop hosted by the Burundi Union of Journalists (UBJ) in Bujumbura, Burundi. It is attended by 12 press freedom monitors drawn from Burundi, Kenya, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Seychelles, Rwanda, Djibouti, Tanzania and Uganda.
The activity is part of a new three year project being implemented by EAJA titled “Promoting Respect for Media Freedom and Ending Impunity in Eastern Africa” and funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Alexandre Niyungeko, the Secretary General of the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA), said the media is under attack from the more repressive governments and rogue elements in the region. “ A fundamental strategy of EAJA's advocacy work is to monitor violations of media freedom and the right to free expression and expose them with the aim of galvanizing support from national, regional and international organizations that fight for media freedom and freedom of expression”, Niyungeko said.
The 12 monitors are trained by the newly recruited EAJA Press Freedom Coordinator William Onyango Oloo and an IFJ staff so as to produce alerts and concise news reports on media freedom violations taking place across the Eastern Africa region with recommendations for follow-up action.
The training is a combination of plenary and practical sessions during which the profile of each country is elaborated and discussed. “We examined the legal, policy, social, economic and political environment in Eastern Africa and their effects on press freedom as well as the global manifestations of press freedom violations,” said EAJA Press Freedom Coordinator William Onyango Oloo. “We also highlighted some case studies, identified the actors, perpetrators of violations and developed a press freedom monitoring matrix. EAJA will publish compilation of action alerts as the Annual Report of Press Freedom Violations in Eastern Africa”, William Oloo said.
The alerts will be shared with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters without Borders (RSF), Journalists Unions/associations, media freedom NGOs, International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), The Committee to protect journalists (CPJ) Clearing House in Toronto, Canada, for further international dissemination.
Opening the ceremony, Mr. Sigejeje Frederic-François, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications told the monitors that the Government of Burundi is convinced that the media is an essential partner to democracy.
“We support regional organizations such as EAJA and are committed to upholding freedom of the press and freedom of expression”, the Permanent secretary said.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has lauded the new paths EAJA is undertaking. “We support our regional organization and urge monitors to prepare analyses and background information papers on violations of media freedom and right to information in the region; the best practices must also be highlighted”, said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director.
The media monitoring system is expected to improve the reporting of violations and their reduction in the region. An increase of the participation of civil society in monitoring and reporting of media freedom violations is also expected.
In a resolution unanimously adopted, participants have appealed to Ethiopian authorities to quash the sentence and release veteran Somali journalist Mohamed Aweys Mudey. He is sentenced to 27 years in prison under Ethiopia's Anti-terror law. Ethiopian prosecutors reportedly accused him of having information on Al-Shabaab operations in Ethiopia and charged him for participating in terror activities.
For more information, please contact EAJA in Bujumbura: +257 78 99 74 68 or IFJ Africa Office in Dakar: +33 867 95 86
EAJA is the IFJ’s sub regional group in Eastern Africa. It represents 26,000 journalists in the region.