IFJ Strategic Union Building Workshop Declaration
Leaders of African journalists’ trade unions affiliated to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) met in Dakar, Senegal, from 30th-31th January 2019, Senegal, at a workshop under the theme; “the Digital Economy and African Journalists’ Unions: Developing Strategies for Survival and Sustainability” with the support of Union to Union.
Following the deliberations at the workshop and the sharing of national experiences and regional challenges, the unions observed that:
- As digital economy continues to develop rapidly throughout Africa, the media industry in particular is being impacted by new powerful economic and technological forces that are shaping the global economy, and will transform journalists’ working lives, journalism and journalists ‘unions.
- The growth in a wide range of digital media – digitized content, graphics, video, audio that can be transmitted over internet or computer and mobile from small publishers, digital TV and radio networks – have given African audiences the opportunity to move beyond the largely passive experiences of traditional media to become active users of digital media, often in combination with older forms of media.
- Digital media has been providing new channels for marginalised citizens who find it difficult to engage effectively with political institutions in ways that affect policy-making.
- Whenever repression of mainstream media has an effect in any African country, social media has been providing alternative spaces for political information, discussion, satire, and activism, giving citizens the ability to create their own media to challenge dominant mainstream media narratives.
- Journalists’ trade unions are not immune from the changes the digital media is wreaking as they strive to increase their reach to those working in digital media and be able to exert political pressure on employers and government to improve the working lives of journalists.
- Such a rapid and profound change has also inevitably had a massive impact on unions which have seen their membership decline in recent years as jobs have been lost in print and broadcast, and their traditional strength replaced by low paid insecure jobs on line.
- The single greatest challenge facing journalists unions in Africa is to change their nature and character in order to build their presence in digital media; to equip themselves with the tools, the information, the experience, the training and the vision to effectively do so; and be able to demonstrate that by acting collectively they are in a stronger position to deliver social protection of working journalists, and recruit and nurture the huge army of non-unionised journalists and media workers.
Having gone through a wide assessment of the digital economy’s impact on the media industry in Africa and the express need for new strategies for their survival and reinforcement, journalists’ trade unions resolved to:
- Condemn in the strongest terms the closing down of the Internet in an increasing number of African countries. These shutdowns that had occurred in Cameroon, DRC, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda are grossly undemocratic acts that inhibit people’s right to access to information, curb freedom of expression and take away the right of journalists and other media workers to earn a decent living.
- Combine bread-and-butter struggles with broader campaigns for media freedom, digital rights and safety of journalists. In order to survive and prosper, journalists’ unions must strike a balance between their broader civil-political role and the daily needs of their members. To play their role, unions must adhere to the principles of organizational independence, journalists’ control and a transformative perspective.
- Modernize union tactics, structures and organizing methods, including more effective ways to win collective bargaining rights, improve pay and successfully address issues from working hours to contract issues in the digital media industry. Unions must demonstrate the mass character of their organizations, through practical programmes to build the unity and power of media workers.
- Reaffirm solidarity as the guiding principle that can never be compromised, pledging resources to support working journalists across the continent. The job of unions now and in the coming months is to talk through how to translate these principles into action and develop the resources necessary to do it, and how these principles apply in different economies, cultures, media environment and different parts of the continent.
- Intensify dialogue and collaboration across national and regional boundaries, and with regional, continental and global trade union allies. This should include expanded communication using new information technologies and opportunities for in-person, in-depth dialogue among trade unionists from different countries as convergence between the Internet, broadcasting and Telecoms becomes closer.
Done in Dakar on 31 January, 2019