Friday, August 5, 2011

IFJ and FAJ Hold Conference on the Welfare of African Journalists in Nigeria

(Fr. L-R (1) Gabriel Baglo - FAJ Director; (2) Omar Faruk Osman Nur - FAJ President; (3) Owei Lakemfa - NLC General Secretary; (4) Thomas Maettig FES Resident Rep.; (5) Mohamed Garba NUJ President) - pix by FES
  • Somalia: Al-Shabaab imposes severe restrictions over private radio station 
  • NUSOJ Calls on the new government to remove media restrictions 
  • Ethiopia: Two journalists freed on bail, two others in separate case remain in detention 
  • Malawi: Journalists beaten and detained to prevent them covering protests 
  • Sudan: Another woman journalist jailed for reporting rape allegations 
  • Drop 'Bogus Charges' against Gambian Journalists' Leader, Says IFJ

 IFJ and FAJ Hold Conference on the Welfare of African Journalists in Nigeria
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its African regional group, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) foundation held a two day conference on the Welfare of African journalists in the Nigerian capital, Abuja from 20-21 July 2011.
The Conference, under the theme: “The Fruit of our Labour: A New Agenda for Improving Conditions of Journalists in Africa”, was attended by the IFJ President Jim Boumelha and IFJ Secretary General Elisabeth Costa who joined about 30 journalists leaders across the continent. It highlighted the poor working conditions of African journalists which were described as “appalling and precarious.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony, FAJ President Omar Faruk Osman said that the majority of working journalists in Africa have little or no recourse when their rights are violated.
“They have no way to improve their wages and workplace conditions. Year after year, working journalists who are union members are fired, arrested and attacked for exercising their legal right to free association and their right to organize,” he said.
Faruk added that while most journalists are working in atrocious conditions, women journalists are relegated to low wages, low skilled and dangerous jobs while retaining the primary responsibility for the care and survival of their families. “The solutions to these problems lie in our hands and we must find ways to improve the working conditions of journalists in Africa,” he emphasized.
In his address, IFJ President Jim Boumelha welcomed the fact that the conference focused solely on journalists, their working conditions, social rights and their future.
“The essence of building strong trade unions is to defend the rights and welfare of the members and where unions are lacking or weak, the fundamental rights of journalists’ workers are easily violated,” he said.
In the same vein, IFJ Secretary General, Elisabeth Costa, said that the precarious working conditions of journalists are not only unique to Africa, but common across the world. She stressed that there is need to strengthen our solidarity network to be able to improve the working conditions of journalists.
“The IFJ is fully committed to helping its affiliates in Africa to organise and work collectively.”
The Resident Representative of FES in Nigeria, Thomas Mattig, said that the working conditions of journalists and media workers across the continent are dire. “Many journalists work under precarious working conditions, they have no or almost no social security, no access to collective bargaining mechanisms and often they do not have a work contract or a regular salary.”
The contrast, he said, is striking between the importance role the media play in the democracy process and the conditions under which journalists work. He denounced the profound disregard for the importance of free media.
At the end of the two day workshop, a Declaration was issued by FAJ committing the Federation to launch a campaign to improve the conditions of service of journalists and media workers in the media industry in Africa as well as to fight for the labour rights of journalists and other media workers as the fundamental basis of social justice, human rights and democracy. Source: IFJ/FAJ

Erstwhile GPU President
IFJ President
Drop 'Bogus Charges' against Gambian Journalists' Leader, Says IFJ
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today joined its African regional organisations, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the West African Journalists Association (WAJA), in condemning in the strongest terms the decision by the Gambian Government to charge Ndey Tapha Sosseh, FAJ Treasurer and former President of the Gambian Press Union (GPU), an IFJ affiliate, with treason and sedition and called for these charges to be dropped.
Sosseh was charged last Tuesday by the State prosecutor's office along with three other persons, including Mathew K. Jallow, Famara Demba and the already detained former information Minister Amadou Scattered Janneh, with conspiracy to commit treason" and "seditious act".
FAJ President
WAJA President
The charges allege that "on, or about, the 26th of May 2011 in diverse places in the Republic of The Gambia and elsewhere, they conspired to overthrow the Government of The Gambia by unlawful means and thereby committed an offence".
"Not only are these charges appalling, but they underscore the perilous situation faced by journalists and civil society activists in the Gambia," said Omar Faruk Osman, FAJ President. "Our colleague Ndey Tapha Sosseh has at no time committed any criminal offence and these charges are made-up to destabilise and discredit not only Gambian journalists but also journalists in Africa as whole".
"The government of President Jammeh has been notorious in charging its opponents as well as defenders of freedom of expression with extremely serious offenses such as high treason and sedition." said IFJ President Jim Boumelha, "These are clearly bogus charges and aim to frighten and silence journalists who expose the shocking record of Jammeh's government on human rights in the Gambia."
"These charges are very despicable and unacceptable. We emphatically condemn and will use all avenues to challenges these charges in our region and beyond," said Mohamed Garba, WAJA President. "Ndey Tapha is innocent and cannot be charged with the false charges".
The IFJ and its regional organisations believe that these charges cannot stand up to any serious scrutiny and should be categorically dismissed as false and mere tools to browbeat opponents and journalists who tell the truth about the state of civic and human rights in the Gambia.
Two years ago, the same government charged and sentenced six journalists to jail, included officials from the GPU, also for sedition publications. They were finally released following international outcry.
The atrocious human rights record of The Gambian government has been frequently condemned across the world, in particular its oppression of journalists, freedom of expression advocates and human rights defenders. The IFJ and its affiliates have, for many years, called for the Gambian government to lift the veil behind the murder of Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara and the disappearance of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh.
"In pressing these charges against Ndey, the Jammeh government is clearly sending a message to Gambian citizens that dissent will not be tolerated and also to journalists that check on power is off limit. The IFJ and the global community of journalists will launch the widest campaign backed by regional and international institutions and governments to protect Ndey and dispel these trumped up charges," added Boumelha.
Source: IFJ, FAJ, WAJA

Sudan: Another woman journalist jailed for reporting rape allegations
Amal Habani, a woman reporter for the daily Al-Jarida, was on July 25 sentenced to a fine of 2,000 pounds (600 euros) or a month in jail for reporting a woman activist’s claims that she was raped by members of the security forces.
As Habani refused to pay the fine, she was immediately taken to Omdurman women’s prison, northwest of the capital, to begin serving the jail sentence.
Habani was convicted by Judge Modather Al-Rasheed of the Khartoum media court, who fined her editor, Saadeldin Ibrahim, 5,000 pounds (1,500 euros). Agence France-Presse quoted her lawyer as saying they were found guilty of publishing false information and violating journalistic ethics.
She is the second woman journalist working for Al-Jarida to be tried in the past three weeks for reporting human rights activist Safia Ishag’s rape allegations. Fatima Ghazali was convicted on 5 July and was taken to Omdurman prison the same day. She was released two days later after paying her fine.
Seven other journalists and media contributors are due to be tried or are still the subject of judicial investigations for the same reason. They are Faisal Mohamed Salih, Babikir Omer Al-Garrai, Abdalla Al-Shaik, Mohamed Latif, Faiz Al-Selaik, Mohamed Osman and Dr. Nahid Al-Hassan. Source: Reporters without Borders (RSF)

Malawi: Journalists beaten and detained to prevent them covering protests
Reporters Without Borders condemns police violence against at least seven journalists covering protests that took place in several cities during the past two days. Some of the journalists were briefly detained.
The government expressly banned radio stations from covering the demonstrations.
“We are very disturbed by the particularly brutal reaction of the authorities to demonstrators and to the journalists who went to cover their protests,” Reporters Without Borders said on July 22. “We urge the authorities to allow journalists and media to do their job of reporting the news.”
Rebecca Chinjeka of Joy Radio, Amos Gumulira and Kondwani Munthali of Nation Publications, Leonard Sharra and Jacob Nankhonya of Blantyre Newspapers, and Isaac Kambwiri of Capital Radio were beaten by police during the demonstrations on 20 July. Chinjeka was admitted to a hospital in Lilongwe for treatment to the serious injuries she received.
Kingsley Jassi of Blantyre Newspapers was beaten and detained yesterday for taking photos of policemen assaulting a demonstrator. He was released one hour later. Collins Mtika, a reporter for the Nyasatimes website was arrested yesterday in the northern city of Mzuzu and has still not been released.
The two days of protests were organized by civil society groups to protest against fuel shortages, price hikes and a general decline in the economy, and to demand more democracy. The authorities dispersed the protests in a particularly brutal manner, with an initial toll of 18 dead and dozens of wounded. Source: Reporters without Borders (RSF)

Ethiopia: Two journalists freed on bail, two others in separate case remain in detention
Reporters Without Borders notes that Haileyesus Worku, the editor of the state-owned Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency (ERTA), and one of his reporters, Abdulsemed Mohammed, were finally released on bail of 5,000 birr (205 euros) on 22 July after being held for 15 months on charges of illegally selling state-owned news content for personal gain.
The court has scheduled a hearing for 12 November to hear defence arguments. The two journalists are meanwhile banned from leaving the country.
They were arrested on 26 April 2010 on charges of illegally obtaining TV news content and passing it to a foreign TV company for personal profit, causing considerable losses for ERTA and violating copyright. They could be fined and jailed if convicted. 
Reporters Without Borders has also learned that Woubeshet Taye, the deputy editor of the Amharic-language weekly Awramba Times, who was arrested on 19 June, and Reyot Alemu, a woman reporter for the Amharic-language weekly Fitih, who was arrested on 21 June, appeared last week before judges, who ordered that they remain in detention.
Alemu was brought before a federal court in the utmost secrecy on 20 July without her family or her colleagues being notified of the hearing. Taye was also brought before a federal court. In both cases, a 28-day extension of their detention was ordered to allow for further police investigation.
Both are accused of complicity with Ginbot 7, a US-based opposition group which parliament recently declared to be a “terrorist” organization. They are due to appear in court next on 19 August. Reporters Without Borders has been told that they have not been allowed visits by family members or their lawyers. Source: Reporters without Borders (RSF)

NUSOJ Calls on the new government to remove media restrictions
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has welcomed the replacement of the Information Minister by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.
The former minister Abdikarim Jama will be remembered for orchestrating tacit and unconcealed attacks on individual reporters, journalists union, media houses and imposition of restrictions on journalists and censorship.
The Ministry of information duty has been to suppress independent voices of journalism during the previous government rule and failed to initiate any reforms in the media sector that could promote press freedom and independent journalism.
“Under his watch, the former Minister of Information has instead censored the media and harassed independent journalists in an effort to intimidate and dissuade them from further critical reporting,” Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General said on July 25.
NUSOJ Calls on the new government of Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali to remove media restrictions that were put in place by the former information minister to undermine media freedom in Somalia and instead initiate more reform to further the cause of media freedom and the protection of journalists. Source: NUSOJ

Somalia: Al-Shabaab imposes severe restrictions over private radio station
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) condemns the continued attacks on the media by Al-Shabaab militant group by imposing severe restrictions over a private radio station in Middle Shabelle region after threatening to take over illegitimately.
Radio Jowhar, the only FM station in Jowhar, the headquarters of Middle Shabelle region, was visited on Wednesday, 29 June, by three officers of Al-Shabaab who gave the media house two options: 1) to operate under the rule of Al-Shabaab by broadcasting from the station Al-Shabaab favored reports only, or 2) the FM station will be taken over totally.
More than three weeks of dialogue between the management of the Radio station and Al-Shabaab failed, and the Radio Jowhar was forced last week to only report on news and information favoring Al-Shabaab. The Radio was also coerced to re-broadcast every day a one-hour programme of Al-Shabaab owned Radio Andalus in Kismayu.
To make sure implementation of these severe restrictions, Al-Shabaab posted Hamud Sheikh Abdirisaq, a member of Al-Shabaab propaganda team, to daily stifle Radio Jowhar programmes.
“We condemn these restrictions and amounts to the highest level of media freedom infringement,” Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General said on July 25. “We demand Al-Shabaab to instantly lift these restrictions and allow the radio station to operate freely and without restrictions”.
Due to these restrictions, 6 journalists working left from the radio and fled from Jowhar after expressing their reluctance to work under this rule. Source: NUSOJ

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