Presentation to the Workshop on Consumer Protection in Africa, Bamako-Mali

by Herbert Lumansi, Adviser to the IFJ Executive Committee

The International Federation of Journalists is the world's largest organisation of journalists, which was established in 1926 and has a membership of over 500,000 in more than 100 countries.

Its objectives are to promote international action to defend press freedom and social justice through strong, free and independent trade union of journalists. The IFJ does not subscribe to any given political viewpoint, but promotes human rights, democracy and pluralism and is opposed to

discrimination of all kinds and condemns the media propaganda to promote intolerance and conflict.

IFJ believes in freedom of political and cultural expression and defends Trade Unions and other basic human rights and is also an organisation that speaks for journalists within the United Nations system and the international trade union movement. The IFJ supports journalists and their

unions whenever they are fighting for their industrial and professional rights and has established an International Safety Fund to provide human aid for journalists in need. The IFJ has been involved in programmes on journalist's safety, Human Rights, Press Freedom and Trade Union evelopment.

The IFJ policy is decided by the Congress which meets every three years and work is carried out by the secretariat based in Brussels under the direction of an elected Executive Committee that is voted for once every three years.

IFJ has established regional offices in Belgium for Europe, Venezuela for Latin America, Australia for Asia - Pacific, Tokyo for Asia and Dakar{Senegal} for Africa. The regional offices coordinate activities of the IFJ to member unions in their area of jurisdiction.

The IFJ has not been directly involved in promoting consumer issues but has through its programmes of the Right to Information enhanced linkage between the consumer and the manufacturers. But in African society the word "consumer" is mostly linked to foodstuffs and related items. Yet consumption covers items ranging from food, clothing, materials, machinery, drugs, transport, services etc.

The information policies programmes organised in different countries under the auspices of the IFJ have helped establish good relations between the public/government officials and press which enables the public to get a feedback. The journalists especially business writers have helped to

complete the circle in the production chain, the consumer, being the first or last link depending on what end one took. This includes the business community like in the manufacturing sector in the production of goods and services, the distributor, the retailer, on the other hand stand the

consumer himself and consumer organisations.

There have been several expositions by the press of expired drugs and foodstuffs from abroad, which would have had an adverse affect on the local population. While the press plays a vital role in advertising the goods and services that are available for sell, it also helps in finding out the

validity of the same items for the benefit of the public's consumption. The press being the vanguard of society has and continues to play a vital role in exposing expired goods and substandard items.

However the journalists still face a problem of bottlenecks involved in accessing disseminating such information from the public and other relevant authorities like the National Bureau of Standards which safeguards the public against substandard goods. In some countries Journalists who cover consumer issues like exposition of fake goods are threatened by local traders and importers.

We believe that the IFJ should help organise more training programmes for especially business writers in affiliate countries so that the journalists broaden their understanding of consumer issues.

The IFJ will work with consumer protection organisations in affiliate countries to harmonise relations between them and the journalists and all the stakeholders involved to develop good understanding of consumer issues.

The consumer protection issues will remain one of the priorities for the IFJ in its pursuit of developing a condusive atmosphere for the free press.

Thank you for listening to me.