Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) plans to hold a regional Conference on Freedom of Expression in Africa to explore the challenges faced by the media in Lusophone countries in Africa and other parts of the continent.
The Conference is planned to take place in Praia, Cape Verde, during the last quarter of 2013 as a platform for the active engagement of critical stakeholders of the relevant countries, including their governments.
This decision was taken by the Board of Directors at its meeting in Accra, Ghana on December 1 and 2, 2012 where it discussed and reviewed a variety of issues relating to the operations of the organization as well as the broader issues of media freedom, freedom of expression and media development in the West African sub-region.
The Board meeting was presided over by its Chairperson, Madam Soyata Maiga (Mali), who is also a Commissioner at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).It unanimously adopted and issued a resolution at the end of the meeting in which it expressed grave concern about the renewed attacks on the media sector, on media freedom and freedom of expression in many parts of West Africa, especially in countries that are grappling with problems of fundamentalism, terrorism and drug trafficking.
The Board called on national governments and regional bodies in West Africa to work collaboratively to address the challenges posed by extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking to media freedom and practice in West Africa. The Board, on behalf of MFWA, pledged its support for such efforts through collaborative activities, partnerships and other forms of intervention as may be required to effectively respond to these problems.
It also endorsed the ongoing efforts by the international community, led by the United Nations (UN), and the global freedom of expression movement to find effective mechanisms for ensuring the safety of journalists and other media workers. It called on West African governments to support these initiatives and commit themselves to the protection of media practitioners in the lawful pursuit of their professional duties.
The Board commended MFWA Secretariat and the Network of Lawyers for the Defence of Journalists for their pioneering efforts in using the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice to advance media rights and defend media practitioners. It specifically noted the cases of Musa Saidykhan and Chief Ebrimah Manneh, both from The Gambia, which the Network of Lawyers took up at the ECOWAS Court on behalf of the MFWA and won.
The Board called on ECOWAS Leaders and its relevant organs to ensure the enforcement of the decisions of the Court in their entirety in order to discourage the growing culture of impunity in The Gambia as well as other parts of the West Africa
The resolution also expressed the Board’s deep concern about the falling standards of professionalism in media practice in many parts of the region. It called on media professional bodies and associations as well as the media community in the region to develop and implement effective self-regulatory mechanisms that will improve professional standards.
In planning ahead, the Board agreed to design and adopt a new three-year Strategic Plan proposed by the Secretariat to guide the activities, operations and institutional development of the MFWA from 2013 to 2015.
The Board expressed its confidence that the implementation of the plan will help to chart a new direction for the organization and enhance its effectiveness. It also approved a Gender Policy for the Promotion of Women’s Rights and Gender Equity and a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework which will provide a basis for ongoing assessment of the organization’s effectiveness.
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is a regional freedom of expression organisation based in Accra, Ghana.