A group of Africa media stakeholders have launched a digital platform to protect and promote the interests of journalists in the continent.
The first ever digital platform spearheaded by the Africa Union, some local and International journalism associations as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, aims at protecting journalists from arbitrary arrest, assaults and killings mostly masterminded by the ‘untouchables in African society.’.
The platform, launched on Friday January 29, is expected to perform real time monitoring, reporting and follow-up actions to hold the perpetrators of violence against journalists, bloggers, writers, human right defenders and other persons communicating in the interest of the public accountable for such violations.
It will also keep track of attacks against journalists in the continent and support reporting on attacks as well as follow-up actions to combat impunity.
In order to achieve expected results, UNESCO has disclosed that the platform shall promote partnerships, prevention, protection and prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against journalists in Africa, by promoting the principles, national and regional coordination mechanisms which enhances the safety of journalists and combating impunity in crimes against them in Africa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa
During the launching ceremony of the platform, the chairperson of the Africa Union, who doubles as the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa emphasised on the necessity of African governments to encourage journalists within their jurisdiction rather than subjecting them to torture, harassment and illegal detention.
Cyril Ramaphosa’s close to five minutes virtual presentation was highly applauded by many participants as his thought reaffirms the argument that journalists should be given a free hand within the society that they operate.
This freedom is said to promote accurate and objective reporting without fear of government’s repressive or brutal counteraction as seen in most African countries today. In Egypt, Mahmoud Hussein, an Aljazeera journalist has been held incommunicado for the past four years. The country is one of the highest jailers of journalists in the world.
In Cameroon, many journalists have been arrested, tortured, and even imprisoned during while exercising their journalistic duties.
Apart from protecting journalists from ‘societal wolves’, the platform also provides an opportunity for journalism trade unions and associations to share their ordeals directly with the initiators of the platform. Also, the platform will keep track of attacks against journalists as well as create synergies among African media stakeholders in holding the perpetrators of violence against journalists and media outlets to account.
President of Burkina Faso Marc Roc Christian Kabore sent a message of support for the platform. Other speakers include UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, African Union Commission Deputy Chairperson H.E Ambassador Thomas Kwesi-Quartey and H.E Commissioner Jamesina King, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa at the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (AU- ACPHR).
Many are sceptical if this initiative would achieve its objectives considering it is champion by the Africa Union, which is made up of Africa leaders who are mostly responsible for journalists’ assaults.
By Neville Mesumbe