The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the African Regional Organization of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), has urged the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) to press its member States to urgently free all imprisoned journalists and end the use of anti-terror laws against journalists.
“We urge the Commission to demand that its member States end violent repression against journalists and urgently address the deteriorating safety and security situation of journalists in the continent”, said Omar Faruk Osman, President of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) in his address to the African Commission in Banjul, The Gambia.
Delegates from the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), West African Journalists Association (WAJA), Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) and USYPAC (Central Africa’s Professional Media Workers Unions) attended the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, which started on 18th April.
Somalia retains the dubious claim to being the most deadly and insecure country for journalists in Africa where four journalists have been murdered from January to April 2012. This April, a suicide bomb in the capital Mogadishu injured 11 journalists as they were covering a ceremony at the National Theater. An ailing radio journalist is detained in Somalia’s coastal town of Bossasso without being formally charged in court since March 3, 2012.
Eritrea stands as the worst jailer of journalists in Africa, with some being held in metal containers and a number feared dead over the last few years. There has been little information on the fate of the held journalists in a country whose regime does not respect the freedom of expression.
“At least 32 journalists are in prison in Eritrea without charge and without trial, some for more than 10 years. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa, other than Burundi where journalists have been charged with treason”, Osman told the session.
The FAJ President painted a moving picture of the plight of journalists arrested and detained over anti-terrorism laws in Ethiopia and Burundi, which has created unprecedented legal insecurity for journalists.
“Journalists are not only endangered in conflict areas but also in non-conflict situations under the cover of anti-terrorism and criminal laws which do not adhere international standards on freedom of expression”, he added.
Violent physical repression against journalists in Tunisia as well as intention of the new Tunisian government to privatize public broadcast media in a bid to silence critical voices within the state media, was reported to the African Commission which also heard how the unconstitutional and undemocratic change of governments in Mali and Guinea-Bissau was putting at risk the freedoms, rights and safety of journalists.
The Session heard that there remained institutionalized intimidations and attempts to compromise the safety and freedom of journalists in doing their work in Zimbabwe while in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon had many cases of violations which had been routinely reported to this Commission.
“Media freedom in Africa continues to be under serious assault from different players, among them the governments of the countries in the continent”, he added.
The journalists’ delegation, which attended NGOs Forum preceding the 51st session of the commission, sponsored and supported resolutions adopted by the Forum on freedom of expression situation in Somalia, access to information campaign in Africa, the situation of journalists in the Gambia, human rights situation in Sudan and Swaziland, and also supported a letter addressed to the government of Eritrea.
“It is clear to the journalists’ fraternity, the African Commission as well as the broader human rights defenders community, that there can never be any enjoyment of freedom of expression, and by extension fundamental human rights, without the necessary guarantees, respect and protection of the safety of journalists,” declared Osman.
During the session, the delegation had a dialogue with a delegation from the government of Eritrea on the fate of journalists detained incommunicado as well as the delegation of Sudan on the situation of journalists.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights aims at promoting and protecting human rights in the continent. It implements the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and reports to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.
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The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries