The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the Pan African organisation of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on African governments to create a safe and enabling environment for journalists and media workers so that they can do their work freely and without fear of reprisals.
“On behalf of the collective leadership of FAJ, I wish to seize this opportunity as we celebrate World Press Freedom Day to salute and pay my respect to the brave and committed journalists of Africa who are making boundless sacrifices in the face of unparalleled challenges caused by the COVID–19 pandemic,” said Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmed, President of FAJ.
To echo the relevance of UNESCO’s chosen theme for this year’s celebrations “Journalism without Fear or Favour” FAJ sorrowfully observes that journalists in the continent are facing dangerous threats and challenges as governments continue to flex their muscles in an attempt to silence critical voices and intimidate the independent media to toe the government line, rather than acting as a watchdog.
As reported by FAJ affiliated unions and associations across the continent, journalists have been killed, arrested arbitrarily, tortured and sentenced on spurious charges over the past year because of their work, while governments are increasingly using laws constraining and undermining the right to freedom of expression and of the press.
“African Governments must respect and accept the role of the independent media and not use their powers to control and stifle press freedom and the right to access information. Journalists must not be forced, cajoled or intimidated to either work in a situation of fear or favour the government of the day,” Governments must not deny advertising revenue to critical independent media, neither should it bend the arms of business enterprises to withdraw critically needed advertising revenue from the independent media said FAJ President, Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmed.
FAJ emphatically denounces the continued media freedom attacks which instil fear in the hearts of journalists who are working under very appalling conditions. Journalists must not be forced to either work in a situation of fear or favour by the government of the day. African Governments must allow the media to execute their professional duties without any form of intimidation, and must not use their powers to control and stifle press freedom.
“Journalism matters and it is time to end unjust restrictions and the threat of attacks with impunity against journalists. Our governments are duty-bound to guarantee the safety and security of journalists and not to persecute them in an effort to control the free flow of information, especially in this difficult period when our nations are mobilising all resources to defeat the deadly disease of COVID-19”.
In addition to the unnecessary repressions and restrictions, journalists are regularly imperilled with almost absolute impunity and their safety is severely compromised with little or no protection accorded to them from most African governments, which sustains unending safety crisis for poorly remunerated journalists.
FAJ underscores that for any African country to be of any democratic value in the full sense of the word it needs to have a media that is brave, working without fear or favour and speaking truth to power.
“FAJ calls upon the African governments to take meaningful steps to protect the free flow of information and challenge the climate of impunity which is perpetuated by the lack of substantive measures to bring to justice the perpetrators of heinous rights abuses against journalists.
Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmed
Main Photo: Ignace Sossou, Benin jailed journalist, Amnesty International