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Centre monitoring free expression, journalists' working conditions opens in Morocco

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an 11 July 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Welcomes "Huge Leap Forward" as Arab Journalists Open Media Monitoring Centre

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the launch in Morocco of an observatory on press and media freedom to monitor the state of press freedom and document the social and professional conditions of journalists throughout the Arab world.

The observatory was opened yesterday in Rabat by the Federation of Arab Journalists' (FAJ), with a keynote address by IFJ President Jim Boumelha. The centre will be run on behalf of the FAJ by the Syndicat National de la Presse Marocaine - the FAJ and IFJ's affiliate in Morocco.

The opening was followed by a rally attended by hundreds of journalists as well as representatives of government and civil society, parliamentarians and media executives.

The observatory will provide instant and extensive information on events and activities concerning Arab journalists and will publish reports and statistics, commission surveys and undertake studies on all aspects of journalism in the Arab world.

"This is major step forward for Arab journalism and journalists' unions," said Younes M'Jahed, SNPM General Secretary and Vice-President of the IFJ. "For the first time, journalists, analysts and press freedom watchdogs will have at their fingertips extensive information concerning the state of press freedom in the Arab World."

Boumelha told the rally that the centre represented "a huge leap forward" for journalists' unions.

"IFJ Arab affiliates are set to transform our work in the region," he said. "We will now have the tools to scrutinise the state of press freedom in the region and issue authoritative up-to-date and diversified information on a vast range of media issues.
"This is an exciting initiative and there is a will among IFJ affiliates in the region to build the Observatory into an organising hub for all our campaigns in the region to advance social and professional rights for all Arab journalists."

The opening coincides with the recent release of the IFJ report, Breaking the Chains, on the problems facing media and journalists in the Middle East.

"All of this work will do much to raise awareness of the problems journalists face and will strengthen press freedom campaigns in the region," said Boumelha.

One of the first tasks of the observatory is to publish the most recent annual report compiled by the FAJ's Commission on Press Freedom.

The IFJ represents over 600,000journalists in 114 countries worldwide.

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