Communique of the Conference of African Freedom of Expression Organisations in Accra

We, 42 participants from 33 organizations* dedicated to freedom of expression and media freedom in Africa, met at a conference sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Accra, Ghana, from October 28 to 30, 2005, and hosted by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), in partnership with Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and Journalists en Danger (JED);

Agreed to establish a network that will seek to fundamentally change over the next decade the environment for freedom of expression in Africa called the Network of African Freedom of Expression Organisations (NAFEO).

To this end, we agreed

1. To form a coordinating committee that broadly represents all constituencies, comprised of JED, MFWA, MISA, MRA, the International Federation of Journalists Africa office (IFJ/Africa), the West African Journalists Association (WAJA), Organisation des Medias d’Afrique Centrale (OMAC/OCAM), All Africa Editors Forum, and groups from North Africa, East Africa and the Horn of Africa.

2. To invite the MFWA to serve as the host organization.

3. To invite the coordinating committee to designate a convening organization, on an annually rotating basis.

4. To build and strengthen the capacity of regional and sub-regional organizations, especially in the Horn of Africa, East Africa and North Africa.

5. To put in place a rapid response mechanism to deal with crises that seriously impact on freedom of expression in Africa.

6. We agreed to address the following issues:

6.1 Legal And Institutional Frameworks 

  • strengthen and harmonize continental and sub-regional protections; and
  • at the national level, work for the repeal of criminal laws affecting the media (e.g. sedition, defamation, insult, false news); reform and reduce penalties associated with civil laws; reform broadcasting laws to promote pluralism; transform state media into true public service bodies; reform media regulatory bodies (build/strength their independence).

6.2 Media Issues 

Work to stop violent attacks on, and detention of, journalists; stop financial pressures on the media (e.g. manipulation of government advertising and price of newsprint); and improve working conditions of media practitioners.

6.3 Access to Information Laws/Practice

Work towards the enactment of democratic access to information laws in all African countries over the next 10 ten years.

6.4 Training

Including for journalists on legal issues/professional standards, especially with respect to privacy and accuracy and avoiding defamation; and for lawyers on international freedom of expression standards.

7. To address these issues, we agreed to develop campaigns, mechanisms and methods of engaging the international, regional and sub-regional structures, and to involve international freedom of expression organizations.

8. In particular, we agreed to identify a few major campaigns on which to focus each year; and to also launch campaigns to address urgent issues as they arise.

9. We agreed to establish specific structures (issue-based coalitions) to address specific issues, e.g.:

a. For work at the African Union (AU), including the Executive Council, the Summit and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), on issues including the drafting of a Treaty on Freedom of Expression in Africa, and to respond to country reports on freedom of expression.

b. To issue a resolution on strengthening of freedom of expression in Africa.

c. For work at regional bodies, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), East Africa Community and others.

d. For work at the international organizations, including the United Nations (UN) and UN Human Rights Commission or Council (media and freedom of expression violations), UNESCO (communications, culture, language), the Economic Commission for Africa, ECA (information and communications technologies, ICTs), the European Union, EU and the European Commission, EC (trade impacts on freedom of expression), the United Nations Development Programme , UNDP and the World Bank (role of media in development and the Millennium Development Goals), the International Labour Organization, ILO (rights of media workers), Red Crescent and Red Cross (visits to journalists in detention).

e. To address detention of journalists in particular countries, e.g. in Eritrea.

f. To take advantage of summits and other regional and sub-regional high-level meetings.

10. The methods of action should be designed to maximize effectiveness, including making legal challenges, submitting papers, launching protests (letters, visits, petitions, and demonstrations), targeting scheduled meetings, and convening consultations, workshops and conferences.

* * * * *

Host Organisations

Journaliste en Danger (JED)

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)

Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA)

Media Rights Agenda (MRA)

Participating Organisations

African Organisations

AFMF: Africa Free Media Foundation (formerly NDIMA Network for the Defence of Independent Media in Africa)

AMDISS: Association for Media Development in Southern Sudan

CNLT: National Council for Liberties in Tunisia

EFJA: Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association

FAMEDEV: Inter-Africa Network for Women, Media, Gender Equity & Development

FXI: Freedom of Expression Institute

HornAfrik Media

NGE: Nigerian Guild of Editors

OMAC: Organisation des Medias d’Afrique Centrale

OTM: Observatoire Togolais des Medias

PIWA: Panos Institute West Africa

SCFE: Somali Coalition for Free Expression

TAEF: All Africa Editors Forum

URATEL: Union des Radios & Televisions libres du Togo

WAJA/OJAO: West Africa Journalist Association/ Union des journalistes de l’Afrique de l’Ouest

CREDO: Centre for Research Education & Development of FOX & Association Rights

Non-African Organisations

ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression

Free Voice

AMARC: World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters

IFJ: International Federation of Journalists

IMS: International Media Support

Index on Censorship

OSI: Open Society Initiative - Network Media Program and Justice Initiative

CHRI: Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

Ghana Organisations

AI: Amnesty International, Ghana Chapter

GCRN: Ghana Community Radio Network

CHRAJ: Commission on Human Rights & Administrative Justice

Ghana Bar Association

Ghana Journalists Association

In Attendance by Special Invitation

ACHPR: Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa, Commissioner Andrew R. Chigovera