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World Press Freedom Day 2009 events in Africa

Media education in action at a Community Multimedia Centre in Koutiala, Mali
Media education in action at a Community Multimedia Centre in Koutiala, Mali

UNESCO

For the 15th year in a row, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is unveiling its hefty report, "So this is Democracy", which looks at the state of the media in Southern Africa. MISA recorded 163 alerts in the year 2008, the most serious violations taking place in Tanzania - most notably the acid attack on journalist Saed Kubenea of the "Mwanahalisi". The government later banned the weekly, allegedly for publishing seditious material. A similar distrust of private media has been the basis for media closures in Lesotho and Zimbabwe, says MISA. On 3 May, find out about other noteworthy violations by reading MISA's World Press Freedom Day statement and downloading the report here: http://www.misa.org

The West African Journalists' Association (WAJA) is taking up UNESCO's theme of "media, dialogue and mutual understanding" by participating in demonstrations in Bamako, Mali and Dakar, Senegal and calling for talks between government and the media in West Africa. WAJA has high hopes that dialogue will help create an environment conducive to development of the media sector, "to decriminalise press offences and to put an end to the killings, assaults, arrests and imprisonment of journalists." See: http://www.ujaowaja.org

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is teaming up with the Ghana Journalists Association to put dialogue between the government and the media in practice. On 4 May, press freedom advocates, such as Kwame Karikari, executive director of MFWA, and the presidents of Ghana's journalists', newspaper publishers' and independent broadcasters' associations, can exchange views with the Minister of Information, Zita Okaikoi at a symposium at the Ghana International Press Centre in Accra. Two days later, on 6 May, more talks will follow on how to turn GBC - Ghana Broadcasting Corporation - into a "true public service broadcaster." See: http://www.mediafound.org

Worried about the growing intolerance towards independent journalism and rising violence against journalists, the Eastern Africa Journalists Association is organising a workshop on 2-3 May in Kigali, Rwanda. IFEX members the Media Institute from Kenya and Somalia's National Union of Somali Journalists will be just some of the attendees addressing the situation facing journalists and media in eastern Africa, including journalists' safety and working conditions, professional ethical standards, the place of investigative journalism in the region, and media as a tool for dialogue and reconciliation. Email: moise (@) eaja.org or omar (@) nusoj.org

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) had good reason to celebrate this World Press Freedom Day: following its 3 May conference in Mogadishu, the Minister of Information disbanded the "unrepresentative" Media Council and promised to review the "draconian" media law in the coming weeks: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102838/

More than 100 Ethiopian journalists have been forced into exile, many of them banding together as the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association (EFJA). EFJA used 3 May to call the international community's attention to their plight, and to pressure the government to lift the ban on Ethiopia's independent press, much of which was decimated in a brutal crackdown in 2005. See: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102852/

It may be true that not a single journalist is in jail in the Democratic Republic of Congo right now, but that doesn't mean the Congolese press isn't exposed to threats, pressure and censorship, especially with ethnic tensions erupting across the country. Already 31 violations have been recorded so far this year, says JED. In a time of fragile peace, JED organised two events in Mbandaka and Likasi that put the UNESCO theme of dialogue and mutual understanding to the test. See: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102841/

In Nigeria, the freedom of information bill has been pending before the legislature for a staggering 10 years. This year Media Rights Agenda joined forces with the United Nations Information Centre to hold a one-day conference on 4 May in Lagos focused on the importance of two-way information flow between the government and its citizens, via the media of course: http://mediarightsagenda.org/wpfd2009.html

The Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) recalled the recent challenges to free expression in Liberia, from the closure of popular media outlets to unnecessary delays in passing media laws. Who's to blame? Unsurprisingly, many fingers point to the government: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102814/

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