IFJ affiliated unions from across the Arab World lobbied government leaders as they met in Tunis on the sidelines of the League of Arab States meeting.
Journalists unions from countries the region, the Federation of Arab Journalists (FAJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) met on 30/31 March to highlight the crises facing journalism in the region, and to call on the Arab countries to support the ‘Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World,’ which was drafted under their supervision in 2016.
In a press conference organized on 31st March at the offices of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), the IFJ and FAJ issued a joint letter calling on “all Arab countries that detain or imprison journalists for carrying out their professional duty or expressing their views to release them immediately. Journalists should not be sent to jail for doing their job. Freedom and independence are the air we, professional journalists, breathe.
“Without it, professional journalism is unable to play its essential role in informing and educating citizens. Without it, readers and audiences lose confidence in national media, seeking information from other platforms”.
The letter continued: “The digital revolution and information sharing technologies all over the world have led to serious imbalances in the public information space in Arab countries today. On one hand, it has led to a welcome expansion in freedom of expression, the ability of citizens to express their views, to receive and impart information freely. On the other hand, restrictive media laws and regulations continue to limit press freedom and the rights of professional journalists to do their jobs freely.
“The current situation is detrimental to journalism and its mission, it is depriving citizens and peoples of their right to receive accurate news. Therefore, the delay in taking actions to free the media puts the future of Arab states and the whole region on a dangerous path driven by ignorance, rumours and political interests that serve different centres of power, and couldn’t care less about the interest of Arab countries and their people”.
Journalists unions throughout the region have been campaigning for the adoption of laws and regulations necessary to foster free media and independent journalism, ideas enshrined in the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World.
The declaration has already been supported by Arab Leaders, governments, unions, journalists, civil society organizations, human rights, academic institutions and political parties from Palestine, Tunisia, Jordan, Sudan, Morocco and Mauritania. Now unions are calling on other governments in the region to sign up and act to enhance media freedom. “We call on you to adopt the Declaration which will guide the LAS and its members’ efforts to reform the media. The time to support openly media freedom and independence is now!”, the meeting said.
The unions also agreed a new plan to the strengthen dialogue and the campaign to get the Declaration signed, working with regional organizations and institutions, and reinforcing coordination between unions, the trade union movement and human rights bodies.