|Omar Faruk Osman, FAJ President|
‘ACDHRS’s decision is a support to violators of free expression’
The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has issued a joint statement strongly cautioning the coordinators of the Forum on the Participation of Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul.
The Organisers failed to include a panel of discussion on Freedom of Expression in the agenda of the Forum, and the Pan-African journalists’ body, FAJ and the IFJ stressed that the reason given for the non-inclusion of free expression was given with “untrue rationale”.
The Forum held in Banjul from 25-27 April 2011, is organised by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR).
According to the two journalists’ bodies, they received the brochure and information from African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) on 25 March 2011, which was also the deadline for registration for the NGO forum.
The FAJ and IFJ said in the circulated brochure by ACDHRS, freedom of expression was included in the “proposed agenda” of the NGO Forum. The FAJ and IFJ added that following internal consultations with its leadership, the affiliated sub-regional associations and like-minded free expression organizations, FAJ and IFJ, which helped organize last year’s panel at the NGO Forum, formally requested that Freedom of Expression be included in the agenda of the Forum.
However, the FAJ and IFJ revealed that the Secretariat of the ACDHRS urged that Freedom of Expression will not be in the panel of the NGO Forum due to a “late” request by the journalists grouping body.
“Through the reason for the rejection of our request for Freedom of Expression panel in the NGO Forum was given with untrue rationale, we will await the reason for the removal of freedom of expression from the “proposed agenda” according to the brochure, which also indicated that the NGO Forum agenda is guided by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) Session,” the statement said.
“FAJ in further correspondences with the Secretariat of the African Centre did not bring it to the attention of the Secretariat that freedom of expression is top in the agenda of the ACHPR Session. Hence, should the organizers, who circulated the brochure be true to their intentions, freedom of expression should be included in the agenda of the NGO Forum and should not be rejected or removed.
However, FAJ and IFJ said the decision of African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) and the rationale in the Centre’s response to FAJ’s written request are not convincing and clearly show that the Centre did not make adequate efforts to accommodate the issue of freedom of expression.
They stated clearly that the decision to exclude freedom of expression from the agenda is unfair, undemocratic and unacceptable and the Center’s decision is additional support to and a tool for those who flagrantly violate freedom of expression.