The Chair of the Steering Committee of the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), Mr. Edetaen Ojo, has called on governments across the globe to respect international frameworks on safety of journalists and issue of impunity. He said it was “a matter of great regret that journalists across the African continent continue to face challenges that interfere in their watchdog role and that major perpetrators of the attacks against journalists frequently include security agents, state officials, or individuals.
Mr Ojo, who is also the Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) in Nigeria, made the call on December 11, 2017 during a one-day Stakeholders’ Dialogue on Journalists’ Safety held in Juba, South Sudan.
The Dialogue was part of a series of activities organized by AFEX to mark this year’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI) which was originally billed for November 2, 2017 but rescheduled to coincide with the Human Rights Day celebrated globally on December 10, 2017.
In the remarks presented on his behalf by the Coordinator of the AFEX network, Ms. Felicia Anthonio, Mr. Ojo said these issues remain a central part of international discussions due to the unending crimes and impunities against journalists,
He said: “As we all know, the media community is under relentless attack. Not just in South Sudan or in Africa, but globally. Such attacks include killing, torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention, expulsions, intimidation, harassment, threats and other forms of violence”.
Mr. Ojo observed that “The situation has rightly elicited concern within the international community and a series of measures are being taken to address the situation.”
Recounting some of the measures, he noted that on April 12, 2012, the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination endorsed the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, in which United Nations agencies, funds and programmes were invited to work with UN Member States to ensure a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers in both conflict and non-conflict situations, with a view to strengthening peace, democracy and development worldwide.
Mr. Ojo said the UN Human Rights Council had already adopted resolutions 21/12 of September 27, 2012; 27/5 of September 25, 2014; and 33/2 of September 29, 2016, all in response to the issue of the safety of journalists.
According to him, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also compiled a report on good practices concerning the safety of journalists, which it submitted to the UN Human Rights Council at its 24th session.”
The AFEX Chair noted that these are just a few of the steps taken by the international community to address a global problem which is very visible in Africa, and urged African leaders to play a prominent role in finding effective solutions to the issues.
Mr Ojo also highlighted resolution A/C.3/72/L.35 on “The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity” which was very recently adopted by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly by consensus and without a vote, pointing out that the same resolution is expected to be adopted by the General Assembly soon.
In the resolution, he said, the UN urged its Member States “to do their utmost to prevent violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers, to ensure accountability through the conduct of impartial, speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations into all alleged violence, threats and attacks against journalists and media workers falling within their jurisdiction, to bring perpetrators, including those who command, conspire to commit, aid and abet or cover up such crimes to justice, and to ensure that victims and their families have access to appropriate remedies”
He added that the resolution also calls on States to create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference.
Mr. Ojo listed the recommendations made by the global body to addressing attacks on journalists including legislative measures, support for the judiciary, regular monitoring and reporting of attacks against journalists, collecting and analysing concrete quantitative and qualitative data, and publicly and systematically condemning violence and attacks.
He said the UN is also by the resolution encourageing States to dedicate resources necessary to investigate and prosecute such attacks, put in place safe gender-sensitive procedures and reparations, develop and implement gender-sensitive strategies for combating impunity for attacks and violence against journalists, and include psychosocial support, to victims and survivors.
Mr. Ojo noted that it is a matter of great regret that journalists across the African continent continue to face challenges that impede their watchdog role and that major perpetrators of the attacks against journalists frequently include security agents, state officials, or individuals.
Mr Ojo called on States to abide by the terms of the resolution which also requires them to ensure that measures to combat terrorism and preserve national security or public order are in compliance with their obligations under international law and do not arbitrarily or unduly hinder the work and safety of journalists, including through arbitrary arrest or detention or the threat thereof.
He submitted that: “These are some of the responsibilities which South Sudan and other countries on the African continent and, indeed, around the world now have with respect to ensuring the safety of journalists and combating the problem of impunity in this regard.”