The Steering Committee of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the regional organisation of the IFJ, pledged to tackle threats to journalists, campaign for improved working conditions and build a stronger voice for journalists across the region as leaders from across the continent met in Maputo.
Elected representatives from across Africa met on 3-4 April 2019 at the first statutory Steering Committee Meeting in Maputo, Mozambique since the united congress of the federation – held on 13-14 December 2018 in Khartoum, Sudan – brought together 32 of its 36 member unions and associations in Africa.
The meeting, chaired by FAJ President, Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmed, was attended by members elected at the congress as well as representatives of FAJ sub-regional organisations and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and hosted by the Sindicato Nacional dos Jornalistas (SNJ) of Mozambique.
The Steering Committee (SC) received reports from various sub-regions of Africa and discussed the difficult working environment in which journalists are currently operating, including poverty wages and exploitative conditions. African journalists are yearning for better wages, more secure contracts and decent working conditions. As a first step to help improve pay and secure better conditions in media houses, the Steering Committee resolved that FAJ will organise in the near future a continental conference on working conditions and collective bargaining.
Representatives also addressed reports of the continued dangers faced by journalists and discussed ways to improve their safety. The safety of journalists, more recently increasingly online, has become more important than ever as threats and physical violence occur daily and are often carried out with impunity. The Steering Committee resolved to launch a safety of journalists’ campaign at regional and sub-regional levels, placing safety of journalists on the immediate agenda of governmental and inter-governmental structures, and lobby for the adoption of the safety of journalists’ convention submitted by the IFJ to the United Nations.
The Steering Committee also condemned the repression against journalists and the peoples of Africa who are denied the right to freedom of expression through censorship, shutting down of the internet or the closing down of social media platforms. The meeting called on the governments of Africa to end the persecution of journalists for exercising the right to free expression, to release all arrested journalists and stop harassing them and to respect their human rights – including their right to access to information – and allow them to do their job without fear of intimidation or arrest. FAJ urges all its member unions to make adoption of progressive freedom of information laws a priority in their campaigns.
The motions and the strategic plan for 2019-2021 adopted at the Khartoum congress were also discussed and the SC agreed a working programme dealing with the wide range of challenges currently confronting African journalists and the strategic alliances necessary to make FAJ the strong voice for journalists within regional and international institutions.
The Steering Committee also offered its solidarity and sympathy to peoples of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, particularly the victims of the death, injuries and loss of property following the humanitarian catastrophe from devastating tropical cyclone Idai.