In Africa, journalists take great personal and professional risks to collect, process and disseminate news and information to over one billion African citizens in 54 states. But sadly, being a journalist today in many places can often be a deadly pursuit, particularly for those covering conflict and other dangerous assignments. Conflict areas and post-conflict areas in Africa are predominantly dangerous environments for journalists.
In many parts of the continent, containment of popular movements against structural injustice or the actions of governments has taken a violent turn. The consequences are: grievances and unrests which inflamed various types of conflicts in the regions during which many journalists are targeted either by authoritarian governments, civilians or repressive groups.
In Africa, journalists have been imprisoned, tortured, and assassinated solely during unrest or conflict periods. Press freedom conditions continue to be very difficult in Western, Eastern, Central, Northern and Central Africa. Journalists who report conflicts and unrest also face perils on their personal life and professional freedoms. Many journalists have suffered death, detention, arrest and coercion while others have faced eviction. Any attempt by journalists to project the visibility of victims of conflicts is, therefore, full of danger.
In war-torn areas where press freedom is not adequately respected, media professionals are targeted by warlords, independent militias, criminal gangs, religious extremists or corrupt elements. In these situations, African journalists are not often adequately equipped and protected, and they generally do not have the means to protect themselves adequately and they are not accorded the protection they need by some governments. Those who mostly pursue independent lines in their work are targeted by powerful armed faction leaders, and become victims of pressure tactics of powerful people, such as spying their offices, following them and making threatening phone calls. Journalists investigating cases of corruption also face immense obstacles. Terrorist legislations are used against journalists.
The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the pan-African and continental body of journalists representing more than 50,000 journalists, has been extremely concerned about the safety of journalists in Africa. The continental congresses of FAJ have adopted powerful motions engaging the FAJ to put in place an instrument for the safety and protection of African journalists. The FAJ has been increasingly insisting that governments as well as media organisations which employ them should take steps to reduce the risks journalists face by protecting them and by ensuring that journalists have all the protective measures they need.
In September 2010 the FAJ organised a Pan-African Conference with African Union in Addis Ababa on the safety and protection of African journalists in collaboration with the African Union. The conference adopted a Resolution that has been the object of the campaign of the FAJ to African Union Heads of State and to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).
Following many engagements and lobbying the ACHPR adopted in May 2011 the Resolution 118 on safety of journalists and media workers that was endorsed by the AU summit in Malabo in 2011. However a decision of the African Union Heads of State Summit on the issue is paramount. To this effect the FAJ has been engaging the African Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to the African Union, the State Ministers and the Heads of State.
In September 2012 the FAJ organized the 2nd Pan-African Conference on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity with the African Union in Addis Ababa, to deliberate on the safety of journalists and the problem of impunity. The conference was supported by UNESCO and African Union Commission brought together journalists leaders, trade union representatives, press freedom and human rights activists, African union representatives, United Nations officials and representatives of the African Union member states in a bid to devise a common strategy on the safety of journalists and the fight against impunity. The conference addressed the role of governments in ensuring the safety of journalists, the role of the African Union in promoting and protecting the safety of journalists, through use of contributions from civil society, and the best practices in legislation, law-enforcement and judicial instruments.
The conference adopted a plan of action to address the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, and inputted the UN/UNESCO Plan of action on the safety of journalists. It called on the head of states of the African Union to adopt a binding Resolution on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
In 2013 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the 2nd November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. The Day is usually commemorated by the African Union though a statement.
The Conference of 14-15 November 2017 will deliberate about the safety protocols in the news rooms and the contents of the on-going safety training sessions; consider the progress of the UN/UNESCO Action Plan on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity; and review the FAJ Action plan and engagements with the African Union on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.
Objectives of the Programme
Professional associations, media houses, and NGOs, member States and the African Union, to reinforce their plans and programmes on the safety of journalists and the fight against impunity; and to review the regional plan of action to address the issue.
The two (2) day conference in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) at the African Union Headquarters in collaborations with UNESCO is to bring together journalists associations and trade unions leaders working on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity in Africa. The conference will provide the forum for discussions on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, and the role of all stakeholders in protecting the safety of media workers in the course of their duty to inform the African citizenry.
Participants are equally leaders of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ). The conference is taking place at the same time with many other programmes at the African Union and will provide a forum to deliberate on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity with the representatives of the journalists’ organisations, AU officials, Governments’ representatives and the civil society groups in order to review the regional plan of action to address the issue
The conference will achieve the following results:
- Participants and stakeholders adopt reviewed Action Plan of FAJ Campaign on the safety of journalists and issue of impunity to lobby Governments and employers;
- Participants are well informed about the “UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists” and the Resolution of the African Union on the Safety of Journalists;
- Representatives of professional associations, with government representatives, AU representatives, UN agencies, journalists’ organisations and civil society groups initiate an African Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Campaign against impunity
- Participants are well informed about the safety protocols in line with the theme of the conference.