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African Media

Journalists call on African leaders to protect their rights

Audio 11:04
People walk past a newspaper stand in Ikeja district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos
People walk past a newspaper stand in Ikeja district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos Reuters

The Addis Ababa Declaration, adopted by journalists attending a workshop at the African Union (AU), calls for the safety and protection of journalists in Africa. If African leaders sign the declaration at the next AU summit in 2011, journalists will be able to submit their case to the African Court of Justice.

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Our guests are :
• Omar Faruk Osman, the President of the Federation of African Journalists

• Ernest Sagaga, the Communications and Human Rights officer of the International Federation of Journalists

“We need to go beyond condemnation and protests and go towards a practical way of addressing the safety of journalists. We want governments to endorse that resolution which will become obligatory on member states,” says Omar Faruk Osman who was one of the journalists leading the discussions at the regional workshop on the “Safety and Protection of Journalists” hosted by the African Union at its headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The Federation of African Journalists hopes African leaders will sign the Addis Ababa Declaration at the next African Union Summit in January 2011.

Is this declaration little more than pious wishes from journalists? Ernest Sagaga doesn’t think so: “What was said in Addis was a statement of intent, not just on the part of journalists but on the part of politicians leading the commission for the AU which have committed to promoting this agenda. What has been lacking in all declarations to date has been the implementation; we need to make a very hard push on that front.”

The declaration not only seeks to offer protection to journalists who face real danger, in war-ravaged countries such as Somalia or repressive countries such as Eritrea.

Violence against journalists doesn’t only occur in times of war. “Our statistics show that more journalists killed in time of peace that in time of conflict,” says Ernest Sagaga, the Communications and Human Rights officer of the International Federation of Journalists (www.ifj.org). Recently, in September, two journalists in Uganda were beaten to death.

“The main reason for these attacks on media is the culture of impunity, entrenched in many of our societies in Africa and beyond,” adds Sagaga. Unless impunity is addressed by African governments, violence against media will remain unchecked. This battle is far from being won.

The declaration doesn’t only focus on physical violence but also look into legal threats such as sedition or treason charges levelled against journalists.

The Federation of African Journalists is hopeful that the African Court of Justice will be able to hear the cases submitted by journalists. “The court will have a mandate to hear cases of violence against media,” says Ernest Sagaga. “If the governments are either unwilling or unable to take action, then the journalists will know that there will be another court which can take over. It’s something which will have a deterrent effect and will help greatly to combat impunity.”

“This safety campaign that we are carrying out is for all journalists in Africa,” stresses Omar Faruk Osman, the President of the Federation of African Journalists. “It’s about them and it’s for them. So, they need to take the torch and support this campaign and make sure that their governments endorse and implement this resolution.”
 

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