FAJ and African Union Commit to Promoting Safety and Protection of African Journalists

IFJ African journalists today adopted a declaration calling for governments, the African Union journalists’ trade unions and the international community to join forces in promoting the safety and protection of journalists in Africa. The Addis Ababa Declaration was adopted at the conclusion of a two-day regional workshop on the “Safety and Protection of African Journalists” hosted by the African Union Commission and organized by the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) at the African Union Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Leaders of African journalists’, the President of the International Federation of Journalists, the British ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union , senior officials of the African Union Commission and of Ethiopian Government , the regional representative of the Office of High Commission of Human Rights, trade unions, civil society representatives took part in the workshop, the first of its kind hosted by the African Union Commission and organised by the Federation of African Journalists.

The workshop discussed a wide range of critical issues related to the safety and protection of journalists including the culture of impunity, the responsibility to protect journalists, the challenges for women covering wars and the role of journalists’ organization and of the African Union Commission . In particular, the workshop focused on the challenges of the safety of journalists in Africa with special emphasis on the risk of death, real and serious in Somalia, impunity, the deadly trap of investigative journalism in Nigeria and the silence over crimes  committed against journalists and end of press freedom in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“History has indeed been made during the past two days in the short life of the Federation of African Journalists as concrete and practical decisions came out of the workshop. FAJ has put on record its commitment to take the issue of the safety of journalists in Africa at every level and to make sure that journalists in Africa work safely and without fear of violence,” said Omar Faruk Osman, FAJ President. “Almost all severe dangers and other risks against journalists and associated media personnel are unique in terms of the motive behind them, the nature of their profession and the work they do and above all their vital role of being the public’s eyes”.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) fully supports the initiative of promoting the safety and the protection of African journalists. Its President, Jim Boumelha, commended FAJ and AUC for their cooperation in raising the awareness about the safety and protection of African journalists.

“Our African colleagues are yearning for safety and security to perform their job without trepidation of endangering their lives.  African leaders should make the safety of journalists a priority because of their legitimate and significant professional duties” Jim Boumelha said. “Killing a journalist is crime against humanity and we demand an immediate end to the culture of impunity with the effective political leadership of the African Union and its leaders.”

During the two days, the workshop debated at length on parties bearing the legal responsibility to protect journalists in Africa and devoted considerable time the experience of prominent women journalists from Uganda, United Kingdom and Italy who made presentations on challenges for women reporting wars. Michelle Stanistreet, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists of UK & Ireland highlighted the dangers facing women journalists and referred to the case of a female journalist who was murdered in Mogadishu, Somalia, after arriving in less than 2 hours where she had been sent despite her clear misgivings on the grounds of insecurity. Lucy Ekadu, President of Uganda Journalists Union expressed life-threatening dangers facing women journalists in covering the war in northern Uganda regions. Giuliana Sgrena, Italian war correspondent spoke in detail about her experience of working in hostile environments and her ordeal while held hostage in Iraq.

Impunity was defined as ‘a source insecurity and continuous danger for journalists’ by prominent panelists  including Kwasi Ad-Amankwah, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation – Africa Regional Organization (ITUC Africa), Ernest Sagaga, IFJ Human Rights & Communications Officer and Mounia Belafia, Deputy Chairperson of the IFJ gender Council. The panelists warned that unless impunity is tackled assertively to end the violence against media which remains unchecked in many African countries.

The Declaration adopted in Addis Ababa called on governments to fulfill their obligations to respect, protect and promote the rights of journalists in accordance with national, regional and international laws.

In closing the workshop, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Jean Ping, welcomed the results of the workshop and reaffirmed the Commission’s commitment to promoting press freedom and the safety and protection of African journalists. He announced plans to establish a criminal court on the continent which will have the mandate to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of crimes against journalists.

“The Commission has in the past used its good offices to secure the release of journalists,” said Dr. Ping. “In the future, the Commission will increase its support for journalists and the fight against the culture of impunity for violence against media.”

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The FAJ represents over 50,000 journalists in 38 countries in Africa

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