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IFJ World Congress debates situation of journalists' rights in the face of growing antagonism between governments and media

(IFJ/IFEX) - 27 May 2010 - The World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) meeting in Cadiz, Spain today debated the situation of journalists' rights in the face of growing antagonism between governments and media as well as the precarious conditions of its workforce. The Congress heard presentations from the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of the African Commission for Human and People's Rights, Ms Pansy Tlakula, the coordinator of the Global Unions' Council, Jim Baker, and Osvaldo Urriolabeitia of FATPREN, an IFJ affiliate in Argentina.

Ms Tlakula told delegates that there is increasing animosity between governments and journalists on the African continent. On one hand, governments claim there is lack of accountability in media and its content is largely biased. On the other, journalists insist on reporting without fear nor favour. This standoff is at the root of press violations including attacks, detention and even murder. She said that the AU Commission successfully intervened in the Gambia for the release of journalists last year but there are still countries where journalists remain under sustained threat such as Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Somalia. Ms Tlakula called for the IFJ to adopt efficient strategies to engage the governments on press freedom and to address sensitive issues of reporting on homophobia and religion defamation.

In his remarks, Jim Baker said freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining form the basis of trade unionism which opens up space for democracy. Journalists face double trouble both on account of doing their work and for being trade unionists. He called on IFJ to promote respect for journalists' rights and to fight the fear which restrains media from effectively exercising scrutiny and providing checks and balances in democracies.

Osvaldo Urriolabeitia welcomed progress made in Latin America such as the dropping of libel laws in Argentina and the recognition of workers' rights in Uruguay. At the same time, violence against journalists and their families continues across the region and the culture of impunity still prevails. The IFJ should establish a permanent office in Colombia and Mexico to monitor the situations in those countries.

During the debate, delegates called for concrete action to promote journalists' rights, including engaging in a dialogue with governments but also petitioning relevant courts over serious press freedom violations. The IFJ affiliates should also inform their members about violations occurring in other countries and regions around the world.

The IFJ World Congress strongly condemned the harassment of Colombian journalist Claudia Julieta Duque and her daughter who have been threatened by the Colombian secret police because of her investigative reporting.

"Congress condemns this unrelenting persecution of our colleague which violates her rights and stands by Ms Duque and all Colombian journalists who face threats to their lives and press freedom around the world."

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