FAJ Urges African States to Fulfill Promises on Press Freedom

By Kebba Jeffang

Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), at the ongoing African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), has called on the African governments to fulfill their promises to improve the situation of journalists, the media workers and freedom of expression in general after ratifying regional and international conventions.

Mr. Stanislas Nkundiye, the Treasurer of FAJ, said despite the numerous promises that the majority of the African governments had made in relation to the various conventions, there is still no breakthrough in many countries concerning media freedom.

He said the journalists and the media workers on the continent continue to be at the receiving end of a consistent pattern of harassment and intimidation, physical assault, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, imprisonment under very vague and rogue charges, torture and other forms of degrading human treatment. He said it is also characterized by forced exiled, forced disappearances and murder with impunity.

“This paradox in this context is that most of these heinous crimes that are meted out to journalists and media workers are perpetrated by state security agents and other government cohorts in most instances under the backing of the states. As a result, the media on the continent has been seriously muzzled, stiffen and muted by the very powers that have taken the commitment to defend freedom of expression in their respective countries,” he said.

Mr. Nkundiye added that media houses are consistently raided by state security agents, journalists harassed and brutalized in the process, equipment destroyed and confiscated, obnoxious legislations that nullifies all the minimum bearable standard that guarantees freedom of expression as expressed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter and the Declaration principles on freedom of expression in Africa.

“The killing of journalists with impunity continues unabated in the African continent. Over the past decade, at least 110 journalists had been killed on the continent. Out of this number, there is hardly a record by any media organization, where perpetrators of these heinous crimes have been arrested and brought to justice. The perpetrators of these atrocities continue to roam our streets under the protection of the states. The killing of journalists has become the most effective crude measure employed by the states’ security agents, business tycoons and politicians to silence journalists. Journalists on the continent are specifically targeted for murder in order to keep them mute from reporting rights abuses perpetrated by the states, crime and corruption,” said the FAJ Treasurer.

He noted that a number of journalists in Eritrea, The Gambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Chad, Guinea Conakry, and Cameroon had been forced to flee their countries for fear of reprisals in relation to their work as journalists.

Mr. Nkundiye concluded by assuring the Commission of FAJ’s unflinching commitment in support of the work of the Commission and its availability to collaborate with the Commission in all issues concerning freedom of expression in Africa.