A network of African freedom of expression and media development organisations, Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), has called on governments to ensure the safety of journalists and respect digital rights.
AFEX, a member of the global press freedom advocacy network, IFEX, made this statement during its eight general meeting.
The meeting discussed the crippling impact of COVID-19 on the media industry and expressed concern about the array of COVID-related laws, regulations, protocols and practices that unduly restrict freedom of expression, access to information and digital rights in Africa.
The meeting highlighted the importance of access to the internet at affordable costs for all, as a pivotal enabler of other rights, especially during the pandemic and its aftermath.
In a resolution adopted at the end of the meeting, AFEX expressed concern about the deteriorating media freedom and freedom of expression environment in Africa, as evidenced by a surge in attacks on journalists and the violations of the rights in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Guinea, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, and Guinea Bissau, among others,
The body also highlighted the suppression of critical civil society voices through actions ranging from killings, other physical attacks, threats, arbitrary arrests and detention, to crippling fines and suspension of operating licenses, especially for broadcast stations.
Member organisations also condemned the killing of journalists across the continent, including the killing in March this year of Jamal Farah Adan, a Somali broadcast journalist; two expatriate journalists killed in Burkina Faso in May 2021 and at least five killed in Nigeria since 2020 as well as the killing of Ghanaian journalist Ahmed Hussein Suale in Ghana in 2019.
In the resolution, the group of organisations also condemned the growing trend of forced disappearances and the incidence of “missing” journalists in Tanzania and Mozambique, such as journalist Ibrahimo Abu Mbaruco who has been missing since April 7, 2020.
AFEX urged governments in Africa to establish coordinating multi-stakeholder national mechanisms to guarantee the safety of journalists and other media practitioners who remain the major victims of freedom of expression violations at both national and regional levels.
The 2021 General Meeting was presided over by Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Chairperson of AFEX’s Steering Committee, who is also the Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA)