African journalists still oppressed

November 23, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, November 23 – A congress of journalists meeting in Nairobi has underlined lack of resources and oppressive legislation as the biggest challenges for journalists in Africa.

On the sidelines of the 3rd International Federation of Journalists-Africa Chapter Congress (IFJ-A), President Jim Boumelha said over the weekend that there are still cases of journalists being imprisoned or being forced into exile.

“These governments shame Africa and make a mockery of commitments to pluralism and democracy,” said Mr Boumelha.

The Federation has called on the African Union and the United Nations Human Rights Commission to investigate, expose and take appropriate action against states violating the fundamental rights of African people.

He said the congress would be pushing for the release of journalists who are behind bars.

IFJ and its affiliate Union of Journalists have also called for a new strategy to remove harsh media laws that have been used to intimidate and stifle independent journalism.

"There needs to be a credible form of self-regulation, a new legal framework that encourages the free flow of information, and a strategy to help media overcome the impact of disastrous economic conditions," said the Federation president.

The congress meanwhile also resolved to push for the passage of freedom of information laws to give journalists access to critical information on government workings.

"The media community should prepare a detailed critique of media laws and regulations, how they are misused and what is needed in their place," said Mr Boumelha. "This process should have input from all stakeholders including media advocacy groups, and should encourage a new approach that will help journalists shake off the dead hand of political influence," he added.

The Federation of African Journalists was launched at a congress in Abuja with the theme of “Building a Strong and United Voice for African Journalists” where participants from 20 countries and leaders of sub-regional groups had converged representing journalists from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.

The Federation began its work with a stinging attack on countries that they accused of denying media of their rights, which they said should be condemned by the African Union.

“We welcome this historic moment of unity and solidarity for Africa,” said Mr Boumelha, who spoke widely at the conference which was hosted by the East African Journalists Association (EAJA), the continent’s largest journalists’ group.

“Journalists are angry at the way governments and authorities abuse media,” he stressed. “They are determined to fight for their rights and they want a single, unified Federation that will speak for all African journalists and that will ensure actions to support African journalism are led and driven by African journalists themselves.”



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