Journalists working in Africa have the right to do their work freely – even when we disagree with some or all of it says South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“The media have a crucial role to play in the historic and continent-wide movement by Africans to build a continent of their dreams,” he said.
Ramaphosa, who also chairs the African Union, spoke during the official opening of the Digital Platform for the Safety of Journalists in Africa on January 29.
The online platform is a collaborative work of The African Editors Forum (TAEF), UNESCO, the International Federation of Journalists, the Federation of African Journalists, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights, the African Peer Review Mechanism and other partners.
According to a UNESCO press release, “the platform will facilitate real-time response across Africa with a view to ending impunity for attacks against African journalists including harassment, arbitrary arrests, assault and killing”.
There are 64 journalists missing worldwide, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ data. Among the 15 missing African journalists is Tanzanian journalist Azory Gwanda who went missing in 2017.
TAEF chairperson Jovial Rantao highlighted that Gwanda has not been seen since – dead or alive.
“Tanzanian security authorities have claimed that the matter is still under investigation. But no one has confidence in this,” Rantao said.
In 2020, Egyptian journalist Mohamed Monir died from COVID-19 complications after contracting the coronavirus in pretrial detention. He had been charged with joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media, CPJ reports.
“The sad painful and cold reality brought to us by the fate of African journalists who have paid the ultimate price is that in some of our beloved continent, freedom of the media, freedom of expression, access to information – it's a matter of life or death,” Rantao said.
Honourable Commissioner Jamesina Essie L. King, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa highlighted Article 9 of the African Charter On Human And Peoples' Rights. It says every individual shall have the right to receive information in addition to the rights to express and disseminate information within the law.
“Journalists and other media practitioners play an important role in guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression. They provide the public with the necessary information to develop an opinion, she said.
Ramaphosa urged all Africans, institutions, heads of state and government, and all other leaders to support the Digital Platform for the Safety of Journalists.
“We look to this digital platform to contribute to an enabling environment for the media to operate in AU member states through respect for the rights of journalists and media workers and an end to impunity for crimes against journalists,” Ramaphosa said.
Watch the full address here.