Addis Ababa, 14 September 2012: African journalists face great personal and professional risks while carrying out their duties in collecting, processing, and disseminating information that require policies and measures to minimize those risks and provide a safe and free environment for media agents. This was focus of Pan-African Conference on Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity (PACSJII), which kicks off today 14th September at the African Union New Conference Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Conference is organized by Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) in collaboration with the Directorate of Information and Communication (DIC) of the African Union Commission (AUC), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), this two-day conference aims to address the role of government in ensuring the safety of journalists, AU role in promoting and protecting the safety of journalists, and best practices in legislation, law enforcement, and judicial instruments.
Officially opening the conference, Ambassador John Shinkaye, Chief of Staff in the Bureau of the Chairperson of the AUC, representing the AUC Chairperson H.E. Dr. Jean Ping, pointed out that Journalists and media workers in Africa are continued to be subject of most dangerous and violent attacks and said "policies must be developed and implemented to minimize the risks faced by journalists".
He noted that the role of governments in ensuring the safety of journalists is particularly important as it will be up to the political will of African leaders to spell out the measures necessary to help protect journalists.
According to the Chairperson Ping’s speech, “the African Union Commission has undertaken to enhance media freedom, capacity, knowledge, research and access to information in the continent a tangible and irreversible reality” he underlined that that the Commission is moving forward on its effort to build consultative mechanisms for sharing views, dialoguing and carrying free discussions on the media development at the African level. The statement reiterated the African Union Commission’s readiness to cooperate with all continental and regional initiatives and efforts that aim to protect the media workers and journalists. (See complete statement of AUC Chairperson Jean Ping on the AU website:www.au.int ).
Highlighting the importance of press freedom for democracy, Ethiopian Minister of Communication Mr. ShimelesKemalsaid said the media can not make an impact on the democratic political life of the nation without its operational independence.“The constitution, therefore aims at protecting the media practitioner by commanding the state to facilitate adequate legal and institutional protection to ensure the safety of their operation” he added.
Mr. Omar Faruk Osman Nur, FAJ President emphasized on the importance of journalists rights in carrying out their duties under safe conditions for freedom of the press and freedom of expression.“When journalist can act without fear, secure in their person and their profession, they are empowered to bring vital information to the people. They become agent of democracy and freedom.” He noted.
Mr. Janis Karkliins, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, said” The UN Plan of Action aims toward the creation of a free and safe environment for journalist and media workers, including social media producers, in both conflict and non-conflict situation, with a view to strengthen peace, democracy and development worldwide.”
According to Mr. Joel Odijie, General Secretary ITUC-Africa, “ITUC recognizes that journalists as part of our communities have contributed immensely to the development of Africa. We acknowledge that journalists are gate keepers in the Inn of democracy. Their monitoring, reporting and analysis of government process and actions contribute toward the promotion of good governance, accountability and efficient service delivery. Particularly, their whistle-blowing efforts through investigative journalism have contributed to reduce corruption”.
Representing the IFJ President, Mr. Jim Bounelhacommends efforts made by IFJ‘s African Affiliates to put this issue on the agenda of their governments and the African Union. “This is a huge task not only in Africa but also worldwide, and IFJ African Unions now play a major role in this fight at global level” he underscored.
The Pan-African Conference on Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity is the second meeting on safety of journalists organized by the Federation of African Journalists in collaboration with the Directorate of Information and Communication of the African Union Commission. The first meeting was held on September 2010 at the AU headquarters. Ithis conference is also a continental follow-up of the UN Inter-agency meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity that took place in September 2011 in Paris, France.
The Conference being attended by journalists’ leaders, trade unions representatives, press freedom and human rights activists, AU representatives, UN officials, representatives of the African Union member states, Federation of African Journalists Affiliates and International Federation of Journalists representatives.
The conference ends on 15 September 2012.
For more information please consult the AU Website: www.au.int