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First congress of Federation of African Journalists a historic milestone, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 24 November 2008 IFJ media release:

First Congress of Federation of African Journalists Is Historic Milestone, Says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today welcomed the conclusion of the first working congress of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), held in Nairobi, Kenya, last weekend, as a historic milestone in strengthening African Journalists.

"IFJ affiliates in Africa have finally realised a long-held ambition to set up their own federation. This will have a tremendous impact on journalists and media in Africa. It showed that our trade unions are now geared up to confront important challenges, in particular the fight to build up their capacity and to improve the professional and social rights of journalists in Africa," said Jim Boumelha, President of the IFJ. "The process that was started in Morocco three years ago has now come to fruition and I thank all those who contributed over the years for the efforts in launching this body."

Delegates from journalists' unions and associations from thirty one (31) African countries convened in Nairobi, Kenya, on 21 and 22 November during the FAJ's first working congress to discuss all the issues affecting the media industry in Africa.

The working congress of the African journalists was officially opened by the Honourable Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya, who led a delegation from the government of Kenya to the congress. The opening ceremony was broadcasted live by Kenya National Broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

The congress adopted the constitution, the rules of the organisation, a two-year working programme and elected a steering committee of seven members for a three year term. The adopted constitution expresses unwavering support for fundamental principles of trade unionism, press freedom and freedom of expression.

The delegates called for a new approach to eradicate harsh press laws that have been used to intimidate and suppress independent journalism, to campaign for the immediate release of all African journalists in prison and resolved to seek observer status at the African Union.

"African Journalists have chosen to come together and face the challenges as a single, new, united body, the Federation of African Journalists," said Omar Faruk Osman, President elect of the Federation.

The new Steering Committee of 7 members held its first meeting at the end of the Congress and elected amongst its members Omar Faruk Osman (Somalia) as President, Foster Dongozi (Zimbabwe) as Vice President and Ndey Tapha Sossey (The Gambia) as Honorary Treasurer.

"The message we send out from Nairobi to journalists in Africa is that the Federation of African Journalists represents our common determination to provide them with a single voice, strength, solidarity, and a federation to protect, promote and improve the rights, freedoms and interests of African journalists," added Omar Faruk.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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