- Led by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a nimber of press freedom organisation members who attended the AU Summit in Ghana on Tuesday issued a statement, urging leaders of the African Union and Africa to free all imprisoned journalistes on the continent.
Media rights activists doubt why so many journalists continue to be in prison in Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, among other countries without trial.
The IFJ used the occasion to launch the “African Journalists out of Jail Campaign.”
The communique condemned the recent arrest and conviction of five Malian journalists for an “archaic offence” which involved insulting the Head of State for merely printing an article of a fictious President who impregnated his girlfriend – an essay assignment given to a group of secondary school students in Mali.
Activists were also concerned about the high nimber of journalists, media workers and citizens that have been “fored to exile, maltreated, and assassinated for merely exercising their right to independent journalism and free speech.”
The high level of repression in the form of arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, ill-treatment and unfair trials by African governments had culminated in paralysing the private media in Afirca, especially in Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia and else where.
The trend continues unabated, the IFJ Regional Director, Gabriel Ayite Gbaglo, complaint.
“This barbarism should stop; the African media and the media in the world should continuously expose these cases of acts of harassment and persecution of journalists by many African states and continue to make them the headlines.
The creation of the AU has raised hopes for Africa because its Constitutive Act promotes "democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance; protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments among the AU member states.
These values require the consolidation of democracy, rule of law, the possibility for all African citizens to take part in public affairs, freedom of expression, and press freedom.
The right to inform and to access information is one of the conditions for and criteria of democratic governance. It implies respect for freedom of expression and, particularly, the public’s access to the means of information as well as access, for journalists, to information in the public domain; a guaranteed media pluralism and the existence of a public information service.
"The implementation of these rights in different AU Member States is currently very uneven. They are, moreover, often violated. The right to communicate is not among the major principles or criteria for good governance of the African Union, nor is it among the criteria for the peer review mechanism of the NEPAD. We are very unhappy about these omissions.
However, activists praised some African governments for implémenter reforms or taken decisions with a view to respecting press freedom. Other governments are asked to emulate these laudable examples.
Activists called on African leaders to "instantly ensure the release all imprisoned journalists and media professionals, institute measures that conter impunity, brutality and assassination of journalistss in exercising their work."
They also order the reopening of all media outlet closed down by governments as well as create conducive climate for return of exiled journalists.
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