The continent’s largest journalist organization, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), recently called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against journalists and media outlets during its recent attacks in Gaza and elsewhere in occupied Palestine.
The call came at a conference hosted by President Nana Akufo of Ghana. The conference was organized by the FAJ in collaboration with its affiliate Ghana Journalists Association.
“Against all the odds, we gathered in Accra to put our minds together as we reflect on and seek solutions to the precarious conditions in which African journalists operate and the thorny problems of media freedom and quality journalism. Beyond these traditional challenges, we now also face the sad reality of the Covid-19 pandemic killing journalists and throwing many into unemployment.
These challenges cannot be solved by journalists alone and the search for permanent solutions requires wide stakeholder involvement, including governments,” FAJ President Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmed said in his remarks during the opening ceremony presided over by President Akufo Addo.
During his remarks, the Ghanian president implored African journalists to strive for a free, responsible and ethical media as a vehicle for development. He condemned the continuing persecution of the media in many parts of the continent, saying the failings of the press were the lesser evil compared to the risks posed by opaque and unaccountable governance.
“Governments should instead work with the media to promote accountability, transparency, democracy and human rights, which are key ingredients of good governance,” he said.
In his speech, the General Secretary of the African Regional Organization of the International Trade Unions Confederation, Kwasis Adu-Amankwah, said the Covid-19 crisis had exposed the naked reality of the pathetic state of journalists’ welfare in Africa, the majority of whom work without any form of employment contract.
“It is a sad truth that in Africa, journalists are among the most vulnerable members of society. Such a status quo is not healthy for journalism. Decent pay and credible, quality journalism cannot be separated,” said the labor leader.
Concerning equitable pay, he said compensation should be commensurate with journalists’ production of information made available to the public.
During the conference concussion FAJ President Ahmed also read a resolution that included urging the African Union and governments on the continent to stand on the right side of history by unequivocally condemning human rights violations committed by the Israeli government.
This resolution went along with an open letter signed by U.S. journalists on why reporting on Palestine has to change.
The open letter read in part: “We have failed our audiences with a narrative that obscures the most fundamental aspects of the story: Israel’s military occupation and its system of apartheid.”
For the sake of our readers and viewers—and the truth—we have a duty to change course immediately and end this decades-long journalistic malpractice. The evidence of Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians is overwhelming and must no longer be sanitized.”
Many media outlets around the world showed their outrage at the Jewish state of Israel after its air force deliberately destroyed a high rise tower block in Gaza City housing the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera and other media outlets in “what has widely been decried as an attack on press freedom,” reported The Guardian.
The Committee to Protect Journalists demanded a “detailed and documented justification” for the airstrike, noting that it could represent a violation of international law.
“This latest attack,” reported the Washington Post, “on a building long known by Israel to house international media raises the specter that the Israel Defense Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza,” Joel Simon, the organization’s executive director said.
In a second resolution, the FAJ condemned what it says are attempts by the United Arab Emirates to pressure African journalists into campaigning against an upcoming football (soccer) event.
The resolution, according to Al Jazeera, “adopted at the African Journalists Leaders’ Conference held this week in the Ghanaian capital Accra … called on football’s world governing body, FIFA, as well as the regional body, the Confederation of African Football, to investigate and sanction those responsible.”
The FAJ President told Al Jazeera that at least eight African journalist associations had been contacted by people they believe are connected to high-ranking UAE officials, who tried to pressure them to hold news conferences and speak out against Qatar hosting the World Cup and to encourage African teams to boycott the tournament.
This continuing dispute with the UAE grew out of a conflict with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, along with Egypt, who had severed economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017 and imposed a land, sea and air blockade, accusing it, without proof, of supporting “terrorism.”
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