The third continental
congress of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) kicks off today in
Casablanca, Morocco, with a call for organising journalists, building stronger
unions and defending press freedom in Africa. The event which is hosted by the Syndicat national de la presse marocaine (SNPM) is attended by 38 delegates from 34 countries in Africa.
unions and associations affiliated to the International Federation of
Journalists have formed since 2008 a continental body representing the
interests of their members in all media sectors either electronic, broadcasting
or print, working as reporters, presenters, producers, freelances or even
editors at national, regional and international levels with the common
objective to work to improve the social and professional rights of their
members, be they full time or freelance.
the welcome address, Younes M’Jahed, president of SNPM said the congress is the occasion to consolidate the Federation of
African Journalists. “FAJ is now a big African organization which has
demonstrated on the ground its force to strengthen journalists’ unions and
fight against all press freedom abuses and attacks against journalists,” said
Younes M’Jahed. “African journalists’ unions are mature. They are working in
difficult conditions but are resisting and defending their independence from
all powers and foreign interference. That’s why we consider that the
strengthening of union bodies is capital for our future.”
at the opening ceremony, Jim Boumelha, president of the International
Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said strengthening the pan-African solidarity
among journalists is a very important objective, because Africa needs good
journalists practicing good journalism, freely, safely and professionally.
Looking at FAJ’s report of activities and programme of work, Boumelha stated:
“anybody who wants to know what you have achieved should read your document of
work. They will of course realise the huge challenges you had to confront, from
the issue of safety of journalists and impunity to criminalisation of
journalists, the fight for better working conditions and the implementation of
international labour standards”. “They will see at the same time, how with very
limited resources FAJ has set out to lift and upgrade its democracy and
structures, to increase its capacity to confront employers and governments and
to break the walls between media sectors and between men and women”.
on FAJ members to consolidate their work
on protecting the free flow of information which is a cornerstone for the IFJ’s
mandate. “Indeed freedom of expression is imperative for sustaining
development, consolidating democracy and initiating dialogue. And I am proud
that you have taken it as a central battle line not only within FAJ but in many
of your respective unions,” Boumelha added.
in Africa there are still many obstacles to freedom of expression and free
press. Boumelha highlighted the issue of censorship, violence, intimidation and
harassment of journalists, pressure and threats, poor working conditions, lack
of financial resources and training as
areas where FAJ can make a difference, while assuring them of the IFJ’s
the issue of safety and security of journalists, Jim Boumelha said, in the past
decade more than 2000 media professionals have been killed in the exercise of
their profession, most of them victims of targeted killing and most of them
local journalists working in their communities.
murderers of journalists are too seldom held accountable. For both killings in
war zones and under other circumstances only very few cases are investigated.
In even fewer cases the perpetrators are brought to justice. Indeed, impunity
stands in the way of justice in about eighty percent of these cases, and as
long as this pervasive culture of impunity exists, journalists will remain easy
the other hand, the Minister for
Communication of Morocco Honorable Mustapha El Khalfi, said the country’s
commitment is to be a model for press freedom. “Africa’s future depends on the emergence of a strong, free and
responsible press. This mission involves credible media and respect for press
freedom,” El Khalfi said, highlighting the process in Morocco to reinforce
press freedom and freedom of expression through a new legal framework provided
by Article 27 of the country’s new Constitution which guaranties the right to
access to information.
Delivering a speech to delegates, Mr. Driss Yazami,
president of the national human rights Council of Morocco, said Africa has to
take up two challenges: respect for human rights and freedom of expression, and
the achievement of a sustainable development and social justice. “The role of
journalists is at the cornerstone to meet these objectives and we need to join
our efforts to better defend freedoms and the expansion of a human rights
culture,” Yazami concluded.
Omar Faruck Osman, president of the Federation of
African Journalists said the Federation has made tremendous gains since 2010. “We
extended solidarity and support to ever combat ready unions and their members;
we strongly campaigned for the safety of journalists and tackled the culture of
impunity in Africa; we sought justice for victim journalists and their families;
we helped strengthen the voice of journalists at the national regional and continental
levels. Journalists in Africa and their unions are more organized than ever
before. We struggled against all odds in the past three years. We fought to decriminalize
journalism and the entire media work,” Osman said.
He nevertheless stated that FAJ is meeting in the
middle of unprecedented crisis for journalists which threaten to undermine all
the gains FAJ has made over the past three years. “Violent repression and the
injustice against journalists are relentless. The number of journalists
detained in Africa for their work since the last congress has increased. More
than 70 % of journalists are working under precarious conditions. Ethical standards are declining due to
external life-threatening pressure and lack of decent salaries”, he stated.
FAJ has a mandate to
enforce trade union development in the media industry in Africa, to address
professional matters, to protect and defend freedom of expression and
information as well as journalists' human rights, as laid down in the
Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa.
The conference ends on 31
March 2013 and will have to elect a new steering committee.
50,000 journalists in 34 countries in Africa.