Omar Faruk Osman, President FAJ Tuesday 21 April told a gathering of Human Rights Defenders in Kampala, Uganda, that journalists and media workers in Africa face series of threats ranging from safety and security, repressive laws, oppressive regimes, monopolies, bad labour practices and unfair competition.
The FAJ President further stated that the journalist, in reporting events including those that expose him/her to personal insecurity and most times injury or death, is now faced with even greater challenges “in the face of new threats occasioned by globalization, political power play and economic developments.”
Describing the safety of journalists especially in conflict Zones and in African countries were the Authorities use ‘out-dated’, ‘out-moded’ and draconian laws to stifle freedom of the press, Mr Osman described the situation as a hindrance to press freedom citing countries like Somalia, Nigeria, Darfur in Sudan, Northern Uganda, Comoros, The Gambia and Senegal.
Other areas of concern pinpointed by the FAJ president were the issues of monopolization of the media notably in East Africa and some countries within West Africa, lack of adequate training and professional media practitioners, lack of necessary equipment and adequate tools, inadequate concerted efforts to ensure media law reforms, state and self censorship, inadequate and or lack of ethical guidelines, poor working conditions and weak journalist associations and unions.
Omar Faruk Osman noted that for the media in Africa to be better positioned to inform and educate but also to serve as a catalyst for change and defend human rights and to hold governments accountable to the peoples, “concerted and targeted actions, and strategies” are needed
These actions and strategies should target: the formation of strong unions and associations to address challenges posed by training, the poor working conditions, safety and security of journalists; legal reviews and reforms of laws that hinder freedom of expression and freedom of the press; co-operation with civil society and human rights groups to push governments to embrace change and respect for the media; drawing up ethical guidelines to safeguard media practitioners from abuse and disrespect by the wider society; the safety training for journalists working in conflict situations; intensive press freedom campaigns and reports on media abuses.
The FAJ President was discussing on the threats, challenges and strategies to achieve the protection of Journalists as Human Rights Defenders, in Kampala on the anniversary of the Johannnesburg+10 All Africa Human Rights Defenders Conference.
The conference, organized by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project brought together over one hundred activists from 45 African countries.