Third FAJ continental congress kicks off in Casablanca with a call for organising journalists and defending press freedom



The third continental

congress of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) kicks off today in

Casablanca, Morocco, with a call for organising journalists, building stronger

unions and defending press freedom in Africa. The event which is hosted by the Syndicat national de la presse marocaine (SNPM) is attended by 38 delegates from 34 countries in Africa.  


Journalists’ trade

unions and associations affiliated to the International Federation of

Journalists have formed since 2008 a continental body representing the

interests of their members in all media sectors either electronic, broadcasting

or print, working as reporters, presenters, producers, freelances or even

editors at national, regional and international levels with the common

objective to work to improve the social and professional rights of their

members, be they full time or freelance.



the welcome address, Younes M’Jahed, president of SNPM said the congress is the occasion to consolidate the Federation of

African Journalists. “FAJ is now a big African organization which has

demonstrated on the ground its force to strengthen journalists’ unions and

fight against all press freedom abuses and attacks against journalists,” said

Younes M’Jahed. “African journalists’ unions are mature. They are working in

difficult conditions but are resisting and defending their independence from

all powers and foreign interference. That’s why we consider that the

strengthening of union bodies is capital for our future.”



at the opening ceremony, Jim Boumelha, president of the International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said strengthening the pan-African solidarity

among journalists is a very important objective, because Africa needs good

journalists practicing good journalism, freely, safely and professionally.

Looking at FAJ’s report of activities and programme of work, Boumelha stated:

“anybody who wants to know what you have achieved should read your document of

work. They will of course realise the huge challenges you had to confront, from

the issue of safety of journalists and impunity to criminalisation of

journalists, the fight for better working conditions and the implementation of

international labour standards”. “They will see at the same time, how with very

limited resources FAJ has set out to lift and upgrade its democracy and

structures, to increase its capacity to confront employers and governments and

to break the walls between media sectors and between men and women”.


He called

on FAJ members to consolidate  their work

on protecting the free flow of information which is a cornerstone for the IFJ’s

mandate. “Indeed freedom of expression is imperative for sustaining

development, consolidating democracy and initiating dialogue. And I am proud

that you have taken it as a central battle line not only within FAJ but in many

of your respective unions,” Boumelha added.



in Africa there are still many obstacles to freedom of expression and free

press. Boumelha highlighted the issue of censorship, violence, intimidation and

harassment of journalists, pressure and threats, poor working conditions, lack

of financial resources and  training as

areas where FAJ can make a difference, while assuring them of the IFJ’s

unflinching support.



the issue of safety and security of journalists, Jim Boumelha said, in the past

decade more than 2000 media professionals have been killed in the exercise of

their profession, most of them victims of targeted killing and most of them

local journalists working in their communities.



murderers of journalists are too seldom held accountable. For both killings in

war zones and under other circumstances only very few cases are investigated.

In even fewer cases the perpetrators are brought to justice. Indeed, impunity

stands in the way of justice in about eighty percent of these cases, and as

long as this pervasive culture of impunity exists, journalists will remain easy




the other hand,  the Minister for

Communication of Morocco Honorable Mustapha El Khalfi, said the country’s

commitment is to be a model for press freedom. “Africa’s future depends on the emergence of a strong, free and

responsible press. This mission involves credible media and respect for press

freedom,” El Khalfi said, highlighting the process in Morocco to reinforce

press freedom and freedom of expression through a new legal framework provided

by Article 27 of the country’s new Constitution which guaranties the right to

access to information.


Delivering a speech to delegates, Mr. Driss Yazami,

president of the national human rights Council of Morocco, said Africa has to

take up two challenges: respect for human rights and freedom of expression, and

the achievement of a sustainable development and social justice. “The role of

journalists is at the cornerstone to meet these objectives and we need to join

our efforts to better defend freedoms and the expansion of a human rights

culture,”  Yazami concluded.


Omar Faruck Osman, president of the Federation of

African Journalists said the Federation  has made tremendous gains since 2010. “We

extended solidarity and support to ever combat ready unions and their members;

we strongly campaigned for the safety of journalists and tackled the culture of

impunity in Africa; we sought justice for victim journalists and their families;

we helped strengthen the voice of journalists at the national regional and continental

levels. Journalists in Africa and their unions are more organized than ever

before. We struggled against all odds in the past three years. We fought to decriminalize

journalism and the entire media work,” Osman said.


He nevertheless stated that FAJ is meeting in the

middle of unprecedented crisis for journalists which threaten to undermine all

the gains FAJ has made over the past three years. “Violent repression and the

injustice against journalists are relentless. The number of journalists

detained in Africa for their work since the last congress has increased. More

than 70 % of journalists are working under precarious conditions.  Ethical standards are declining due to

external life-threatening pressure and lack of decent salaries”, he stated.


FAJ has a mandate to

enforce trade union development in the media industry in Africa, to address

professional matters, to protect and defend freedom of expression and

information as well as journalists' human rights, as laid down in the

Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa.


The conference ends on 31

March 2013 and will have to elect a new steering committee. 




FAJ represents

50,000 journalists in 34 countries in Africa.