UNESCO, AU Tasked on Coordination Mechanism for Safety of Journalists In Africa

Vera Songwe, Head, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
Vera Songwe, Head, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Stakeholders at an interregional forum held at UNECA office in Addis Ababa on November 26 – 27, 2018 have called on the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to work together “to develop the AU Working Group on Safety of Journalists into an operational, multi-stakeholder framework for a robust coordination mechanism that brings together the relevant public sector actors and other media stakeholders in Africa.” 

Titled “Interregional Forum on Strengthening National Monitoring and Reporting Mechanisms for the Safety of Journalists in Africa in the realisation of Agenda 2063 Aspiration 3 and Agenda 2030 SDG 16.10.1,” the stakeholders which included representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), media, government officials, security experts among others also called for the establishment of coordination mechanisms at the Sub regional and National Levels.

Referencing the Addis Resolution adopted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on  November 15, 2017 and the Nairobi Declaration adopted in Nairobi, Kenya on  November 14, 2017, the stakeholders also Called on the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), UNESCO and lead organisations on safety of journalists “to affirm and continue to develop, and where needed to establish, sub-regional mechanisms on safety of journalists which are multi-stakeholder in nature and which have a broad remit to take operational actions to support safety.”

They equally urged AU Member State to, in consultation with interested stakeholders, “establish effective, multi-stakeholder national mechanisms for the safety of journalists, taking into account their different country contexts.”

They cautioned that while designing the national mechanisms, consideration should be given to “all three arms of government including security actors and other administration of justice actors, civil society actors working in this area, representative bodies of journalists, media workers and media outlets, lawyers’ associations, human rights defenders, journalism training and research institutions, media regulatory bodies, NGOs, INGOs, relevant inter-governmental organisations, including United Nations agencies, and other representatives of the international community.”

The two-day event cut across various issues concerning safety of journalists in Africa. Sessions included sharing of good practices, state of media in Africa reports, role of member states in realising SDG 16.10.1 and Agenda 2061; domestication of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists; opportunities for collaboration as well as practical action points.

Participant organisations at the Forum included the UNESCO, the AU, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Centre for Law and Democracy, Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Article 19, Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) among others; as well as officials of governments across Africa.