Federation of African Journalists (FAJ)
13 April, 2020
The Steering Committee of FAJ, which met through a teleconference on 10 April 2020, expressed grave concerns about the safety and wellbeing of overworked and under-resourced African journalists who as frontline workers, have been carrying out an essential service by providing their citizens with credible and reliable information, but having to face a myriad of problems as they work without personal protective equipment (PPE) thus exposing themselves to a lethal disease.
Sadly, the deadly pandemic has claimed the lives of two journalists. FAJ expresses its deepest condolences to the families and colleagues of Togolese journalist Dominique Aliziou and Zimbabwean TV journalist Zororo Makamba. These tragic deaths underline that journalism is an essential public good which must go on with business as usual with journalists entering risky situations.
"Let us fight the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) together but as journalists do their part, media employers must also do their part and discharge their responsibility for duty of care and provide PPE to journalists and other media workers in the field. We also expect media houses to pay journalists their salaries in full, including their benefits in line with their conditions of service” said FAJ President Sadiq Ibrahim. “Refusing to pay journalists would be a declaration of war which we are prepared to fight to the bitter end.”
FAJ is also extremely concerned to hear that the working conditions of journalists in several countries in Africa have dramatically deteriorated, throwing journalists into a second crisis in addition to the COVID-19 tragedy. There is much angst amongst freelance journalists who have been particularly hit by the lockdown. At the same time, many newsrooms have seen non-payment of salaries and layoffs without any compensation.
As journalists and other media workers face the daunting and sometimes life-threatening task, of meeting their readers and viewers’ hunger for news, FAJ deplores the growing moves by African governments to use the emergency situation to deny journalists’ access to information, thus sowing confusion over vital aspects of the fight against the pandemic and restraining what citizens must know.
“Hampering journalists’ freedom of information in the face of a deadly disease only rises anxiety, implants fear among the public and removes public scrutiny of governments’ actions. Governments must offer unrestricted access of information to journalists as the fight against COVID-19 is a collective fight which governments alone cannot win in secrecy” added FAJ President.
In solidarity with journalists detained in the continent, FAJ calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all imprisoned journalists. “Governments holding journalists in prison must dedicate their energy to fight the disease and set them free. Imprisoned journalists cannot isolate and, in most instances, have no medical care in often overcrowded and filthy prisons” added FAJ leader.
FAJ urges Africa’s brave and dedicated journalists to soldier on and do their job with the utmost diligence, in particular discharging their role as society’s watchdogs by scrutinising the actions of governments and public institutions.
Finally, as a pan-African organisation, FAJ condemns and utterly rejects any proposition that Africa and Africans be used as a testing ground for vaccinations being developed against COVID 19 and urges African journalists to dig deep and expose any such dealings or attempts as they constitute naked racism and an existential threat to the peoples of Africa
FAJ calls on all affiliated organisations and journalists at large to observe and abide by the preventative measures rolled out by national authorities to curb the spread of this virus while carrying out their essential mission of objective quality journalism using trustworthy sources.