Hohoe, April 1, GNA- Journalists and media associations have been asked to defend press freedom in Africa, to broaden the frontiers of democracy and development.
This was disclosed at the third continental congress of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), which ended in Casablanca, Morocco, on Sunday.
The event, which was hosted by the Syndicat National de la presse marocaine (SNPM) under the auspices of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), was attended by 38 delegates from 34 countries in Africa.
Journalists, trade unions and associations affiliated to the IFJ since 2008, formed a continental body representing the interest of their members in all media sectors; electronic, broadcasting or print.
The members include reporters, presenters, producers, freelance and editors at national, regional and international levels, with the common objective to work to improve their social and professional rights.
Mr. Younes M’Jahed, president of SNPM, said the congress sought to consolidate the FAJ to guard the media for peace and development.
He said ‘African journalists’ unions are maturing. They are working in difficult conditions, but are resisting and defending their independence from all powers and foreign interference. That’s why we consider that the strengthening of union bodies is capital for our future’.
Mr. Jim Boumelha, president of the IFJ, said strengthening the pan-African solidarity among journalists was an important objective, because Africa needed good journalists practicing good journalism, freely, safely and professionally’.
He said issues such as safety of journalists, impunity of criminalisation of journalists, fight for better working conditions and the implementation of international labour standards affected journalism.
Mr. Boumelha said the FAJ was working to tackle issues concerning censorship, violence, intimidation and harassment of journalists, pressure and threats, poor working conditions, lack of financial resources and training.
He said the FAJ has set out strategies to improve its structures and increase its capacity to be able to confront employers, governments and ‘to break the walls between media sectors’ and to address gender stereotyping.
Mr. Boumelha called on the FAJ members to consolidate their work on protecting the free flow of information, which is at cornerstone of the IFJ’s mandate.
‘Indeed freedom of expression is imperative for sustaining development, consolidating democracy and initiating dialogue. And I am proud that you have taken a central battle line not only within FAJ but in many of your respective unions,’ he said.
Mr. Boumelha said, in the past decade, more than 2000 media professionals have been killed in the exercise of their profession, most of them victims of targeted killing and largely local journalists working in their communities.
He said the murderers of journalists are too seldom held accountable and in fewer cases perpetrators brought to justice.
Mr. Boumelha said ‘Indeed, impunity stands in the way of justice in about eighty percent of these cases, and as long as this pervasive culture of impunity exists, journalists will remain easy targets’.
Moroccan Minister for Communication, Mr. Mustapha El Khalfi, said the country was committed to promoting free media and press freedom.
‘Africa’s future depends on the emergence of a strong, free and responsible press. This mission involves credible media and respect for press freedom’, he said.
Mr. EI Khalfi said a legal framework provided by Article 27 of the Moroccan Constitution, guarantees the right to and access to information, highlighting the process to reinforce press freedom and freedom of expression.
Mr. Driss Yazami, president of the National Human Rights Council of Morocco, called on Africa countries to respect human rights and freedom of expression, and to achieve a sustainable development and social justice.
‘The role of journalists is at the cornerstone to meet these objectives and we need to join our efforts to better defend freedoms and the expansion of a human rights culture,’ he said.
Omar Faruck Osman, president of the FAJ, said the group has made tremendous gains since 2010 and that : ‘Journalists in Africa and their unions are more organized than ever before. We struggled against all odds in the past three years. We fought to decriminalize journalism and the entire media work.
He said violent repression and injustice against journalists was relentless and the number of journalists detained in Africa for their work since the last congress has increased.
Mr. Osman said: ‘More than 70 per cent of journalists are working under precarious conditions. Ethical standards are declining due to external life-threatening pressure and lack of decent salaries’.
The FAJ has a mandate to enforce trade union development in the media industry in Africa, to address professional matters, to protect and defend freedom of expression and information as well as journalists’ human rights, as laid down in the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa.