IFJ African Regional Office Statement on World Press Freedom Day

African journalists and media workers should organise to face the global challenges facing the continent

Dear Colleagues,

As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, the International Federation of Journalists Regional Office in Africa would like to draw your attention to the fact that the media and media practitioners in Africa, continue to face great challenges. In African today, journalists continued to be killed with impunity. Arbitrary arrest, forceful detention, torture, intimidation by security forces and state sponsored agents and forced exile continue unabated, while certain states continue to legislate negative repressive media laws that are designed to imprisoned journalists in relation to their work.

The urgency to build a culture of press freedom and freedom of expression in Africa

In 2005, it is on record that four journalists were killed in the Continent. Today, as we speak, the murderers of Harry Yansaneh in Sierra Leone, Franck Kangundu in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Duniya Muhyadin Nur and Kate Peyton in Somalia are yet to be brought to justice. The culture of impunity continues to stamp her feet on the murder of journalists in the continent. This can no longer be tolerated.

As Africa tries to move forward to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights, and to consolidate democratic institutions and culture in order to ensure good governance and the rule of law, as enshrined by the Constitutive Act of the Africa Union, such deliberate and callous murder of journalists should be seen as a crime against humanity. In this regard, the IFJ would once again like to seize this solemn opportunity to call on the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Somalia, and all other places in the Continent where journalists have been brutally murdered and their murders still at large, including Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Ivory Coast to conduct an independent investigation into these murders and to ensure that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are brought to justice without any further delay.

It is sad to note that journalists in the continent are continuously being jailed in relation to their work. The legislation of repressive media laws continues to serve as a booby trap to jail journalists. Most journalists that are imprisoned in the continent today have been sent to jail in relation to bogus and archaic defamation laws. The IFJ continues to buttress the fact that journalists should not be jailed in relation to their work. The issue of defamation should be seen more as a civil case rather than a criminal offence.

We call on all African governments to release unconditionally all journalists jailed in relation to their work.

It is on record that Ethiopia and Eritrea have the highest number of jailed journalists in the continent. At least 15 journalists are jailed in Ethiopia, following the aftermath of the 2005 elections. Most of these journalists have been charged with treason by the Meles Zenawi government and might face the death penalty if found guilty. Similarly in Eritrea, 15 journalists are also imprisoned, including Issac Dawit, a Swedish-Eritrean since 2001 when all independent media have been suspended. In countries like the Gambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, journalists continued to be arbitrarily arrested. Lamin Fatty, a journalist with the independent newspaper in the Gambia, continue to languish in detention following a publication he made on the arrested coup suspects. The IFJ in this vein calls on all African governments to release unconditionally all journalists who have been jailed in relation to their work.

The media in Africa can fully participate in the struggle for development and eradication of poverty if journalists and media workers operate in a conducive environment with better conditions of service.

This Year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation, (UNESCO) have chosen the theme “Media, Development and Poverty Eradication” to mark the occasion. However, it is worthy to note that journalists are among the poorest paid workers in the continent. Most journalists in the continent do not have proper contracts with the media organisations that they work with, while a significant number of journalists continue to serve as daily paid workers, despite the numerous years that they have spent with these organisations. For journalists to gain more respect in the continent their working conditions must be improved. This is why the IFJ has continued to call on the unions to engage governments and employers in dialogue for Collective Bargaining Agreements, in order to get journalists out of the vicious circle of poverty. The media in Africa can fully participate in the struggle for development and eradication of poverty if journalists and media workers operate in a conducive environment and with better conditions of service.

Despite these odds, the media continue to play a significant role in Africa. The media in the continent is in the forefront in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The battle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be won without the effective utilisation of the media. Moreover, it is becoming more and more evident that the media is the most appropriate tool for the promotion of democratic ideals, the rule of law and good governance. As the strong waves of democracy continue to blow across the continent, civil society looks towards the media to promote and strengthened these ideals in the continent. This can only be achieved however, if national unions are strengthened and governments create the enabling environment for the media to operate.

African Journalists should unionise to face the challenges of the continent

The IFJ will continue to support the media fraternity in Africa through the national unions to enable them to defend journalists’ interests and press freedom at the national level. In order to do this African journalists should get together, to unionise in order to face the global challenges facing the continent.

International Federation of Journalists - Africa Office

17, Boulevard de la République

BP 21 722 Dakar - Senegal

Tel : 221- 842 01 42/43

Fax : 221 842 02 69

Email : [email protected]

[email protected]