Pan-African Conference on Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity kicks off with a call for safe and free environment for African journalists

 

 

(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

against media.

 

The opening

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

Osman.


“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

functions”.


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-

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 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

Kwasi Adu-Amankwah.


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

journalists".

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