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Plan for Pan African Media Observatory fails

In a meeting last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the African Union Commission (AUC) and the European Commission (EC) announced that they no longer intend to create a Pan African Media Observatory (PAMO) due to opposition from the media community, and African and international organisations - including a number of IFEX members, reports Media Rights Agenda (MRA).

The meeting was held by the AUC and EC to consult various stakeholders and experts about the PAMO, which was jointly proposed by the two commissions in 2009 to mediate disputes within the media and enforce professional standards and codes of conduct for the media. But the project ignored the reality of brutal state repression of the press as it was designed to give African leaders control over the media environment, reports MRA.

MRA and other IFEX members at the meeting, including the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and ARTICLE 19, rejected presentations of the PAMO project.

Participants at the meeting argued that plans for the proposed observatory ignored the role African leaders play in violating press freedom and offered no strategy to combat assaults on the press. The AUC and EC had not considered several existing mechanisms for media development and promotion of free expression.

Participants also recommended that the AU should focus its efforts on strengthening the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, including media freedom and media development. Meeting members also called on African leaders to respect the 1991 Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press.

NUSOJ called on the AU to encourage member states to avoid governmental interference in the work of the media. Each government should also develop a national media policy, including training and media literacy programmes to enhance standards of journalism and promote greater understanding of the role of the media in a democracy.

The Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) urged the AUC and the EC to see media development "as a separate sector of development."

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