African Union Commission Reiterates its Commitment to Ensure the Safety of Journalists in Africa

The Chairperson of the African Union

Commission, Mr. Jean Ping, on 14 September 2012 received a delegation led by Mr.

Omar Faruk Osman the president of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ),

the regional African group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

It was at the sidelines of the two-day Pan-African conference on the safety of

journalists and the issue of impunity held at the African Union headquarters in

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


During the meeting, Chairperson Ping reiterated that Africa has made tremendous

progress towards free flow of information and freedom of the press. He hoped

more will be achieved in the future if resources are made available for

training of journalists to meet the rapidly evolving communication and

information management. Dr Ping urged journalists to change their mind set about

Africa and contribute in the development of the continent through objective

reporting on the efforts done in the different sectors to improve the lives of

Africans.  

 

FAJ President thanked Dr. Ping for his support

to the promotion of journalists’ safety under his tenure and hoped that his

successor, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma of South Africa will continue with the

same commitment to the protection of safety of journalists within the framework

of the existing partnership between the Federation of African Journalists and

the Directorate of Information and Communication (DIC) of the African Union

Commission (AUC).


Meanwhile, the audience with the AUC Chairperson was as a follow-up to the

Pan-African conference on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity

jointly organized by the FAJ, regional group of the International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) and supported by UNESCO and the African Union Commission.


Journalists’ leaders, Ethiopian governments’ representatives, UN Special

Rapporteur, UNESCO and African Union Commission’s officials as well as trade

unionists are meeting to discuss strategies aiming to move forward the FAJ

campaign for the promotion of the safety of journalists and the end of impunity

of crimes against media.


In his opening address to the conference delivered by Ambassador John Shinkaye,

Chief of Staff in the Bureau of the Chairperson of the AUC, the Chairperson of

the African Union Commission Dr Jean Ping welcomed the increase in press

freedom and the emancipation of media in Africa. However, he pointed out that

there are still cases of abuse of power, discrimination against investigative

journalism. Recalling the African Union’s Shared Values which include press

freedom, Dr Ping pledged the Commission’s continued support for the advancement

of journalists’ safety, stressing that “Democracy cannot take root people have

access to objective information on which to rely to make informed decision.”


Addressing participants at the opening ceremony, FAJ President Omar Faruk

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. He called for a plan of action in Africa to achieve a

binding resolution on the safety of journalists and safe working environment

for journalists.



“The impunity for violence against journalists deserves the equal attention to

crime targeting governments’ officials and international civil servants in

their official functions,” said FAJ President Omar Faruk Osman. “Safe

journalism empowers journalists to perform at the highest potential of their

skills and passion in delivering high quality information to the public.”

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 organization

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.


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’.


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.


 “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-

censorship.”


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 willfully 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

Kwasi Adu-Amankwah.



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 implementation of

existing legal instruments.

 

For more information,

please contact IFJ on +221- 33 867 95 87

The IFJ represents more than 600.000

journalists in 134 countries