- Journalists from all over Africa on Wednesday launched a new federation [Federation of African Journalists (FAJ)] tasked with providing a unified voice for newsroom staff campaigning for better working conditions and professional rights.
The federation was launched at a conference themed “Building a strong and united voice for African journalists" in the Nigerian capital Abuja. The conference attracted participants from 20 countries and leaders of sub-regional groups representing journalists from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.
The President of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Jim Boumelha, who also graced the conference hosted by the Nigeria National Union of Journalists (NNUJ), was delighted about what he called “historic moment of unity and solidarity for Africa.”
“Journalists are angry at the way governments and authorities abuse media,” he said in a statement. “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.”
FAJ was born after regional conferences over the past two years and calls for more unity from successive world congresses of the IFJ in Athens and Moscow. The process has been boosted by the strengthening of co-operation between existing networks of journalists in the west, east, south and northern regions which together embrace all language and ethnic groups on the continent.
In its first public statement, the federation dispatched a strong-worded protest, attacking African governments for jailing journalists and encouraging a culture of impunity by failing to investigate violent attacks on media staff.
“These governments shame Africa and make a mockery of commitments to pluralism and democracy,” the federation said, calling on both the African Union and the United Nations Human Rights Commissioners to investigate, expose and take appropriate action against station that violate the fundamental rights of the African people.
FAJ urged the AU Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to investigate African countries with questionable press freedom record, particularly Somalia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Niger, Gambia, Tunisia, Egypt, and Swaziland.
The federation, which will be supported by the IFJ and the NNUJ in its initial stage, is expected to hold its first statutory congress next year. It seeks to immediately garner the recognition of the African Union and the United Nations agencies.
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