IFJ and African Journalists Call on African Union to Make Journalism Safer and End Injustice of Impunity

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and some 37 journalists' unions and association are pressing government leaders attending the 15th African Union Summit in Kampala, Uganda, to make safety of African journalists a priority for the African Union. In a letter to AU leaders the unions, led by the IFJ African regional body the Federation of African Journalists, welcomed the declaration by African leaders to designate 2010 as the "Year of Peace and Security in Africa".

"This timely declaration must be taken forward with practical, pragmatic and prompt actions," they said. "It is a sad and incontrovertible fact that, many decades after the achievement of political independence, so many Africans continue to lose their lives as a result of armed and non-armed conflicts, much of it driven by unscrupulous politics, intolerance and rivalries whether based upon ethnic, religious or cultural divisions. The wanton violence suffered by African communities continues to be an obstacle to social progress and economic development."

Addressing the safety and protection of African journalists, the journalists and media groups said "Among the many victims are African journalists who are routinely targeted, often injured, killed, displaced or mentally scarred. Their only crime is their defence of African peoples' right to know, their determination to expose all forms of corruption and their conviction that everyone should enjoy the right to free expression."

Last year 13 African journalists were murdered in Africa, nine of them in Somalia. This year six journalists have already been murdered - three in Nigeria, one in Somalia, one in Rwanda and one in Angola. It will almost be inevitable that other journalists will continue to be the victims of grave human rights violations and fall to assassins' bullets as they strive to carry out their legitimate job to inform their fellow citizens, whether on unravelling corruption or lawlessness, reporting civil insurgencies, or exposing drug trafficking.

In many cases, journalists find themselves in the firing line, facing death but also arrest and torture which make journalism today one of the most perilous professions. There are also those killed in crossfire in the many armed conflicts in Africa. Most of these killings go unpunished and many of the perpetrators enjoy complete impunity.

Last March, the continental congress of the Federation of African Journalists held in Harare, Zimbabwe, adopted a strong resolution on safety of journalists and called for an end of the culture of impunity against media workers in Africa. A few months later, delegates from over 100 countries assembled at the IFJ World Congress in Spain pledged solidarity with African colleagues and called on African governments to bring this safety crisis to an end.

"The loss of media lives should remind all African citizens of the sacrifices that journalists and media staff make in the cause of the right to know. Whatever the future brings, journalists will continue to strive to be the pillar of democracy, providing invaluable journalism as a public good often under difficult and dangerous conditions" the joint letter said.

Journalists and media organizations concluded that "If the Year of Peace and Security is to have a lasting meaning, African leaders should do more to make journalism safer and bring to an end the injustice of impunity."

For more information contact the IFJ at   +32 235 2207 or + 256 788038426 (Kampala, Uganda)

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide

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