Africa media stakeholders push for solidarity in addressing digital siege on journalism

The Africa Media Convention held in Arusha to commemorate the 2022 World Press freedom Day, called for enhanced collaboration between the media in Africa and other media stakeholders.  In particular, strengthened cooperation amongst governments, internet intermediaries, private and public sectors, civil society, national and regional human right bodies and researchers. This is with a view to mitigate the effects of the digital siege on journalism and the media, and to collectively deliberate on and submit multistakeholder solutions to the challenges facing the media in Africa.

In a session facilitated by the Ethiopia Editors Forum on Reflections on building African solidarity, the panelists noted with great concern that Governments in some African countries have initiated restrictive measures, including the enactment of laws and policies aimed at controlling and regulating the use of ICT. This has further enabled the surveillance and interception of communication, registering and licensing online content producers, and limiting the use of encryption with a negative impact on the practice of journalism and the safety of journalists in Africa.

“We work with partners to build capacity of media through training. Over the last few years, this initiative has benefitted many women journalists, who have received funding to produce high quality reports on different Agenda 2063 thematic areas. Currently, we are processing hundreds of applications that have come through for the Africa Media Fellowship scheme. We are also sponsoring 4 journalists to this celebration of WPFD. This will expose them to other professionals, increase their networks and give this event wide coverage, including in French speaking countries. Ms Wynne Musabayana, Head of Information and Communication, African Union Commission speaking at the WPFD African Media Convention held in Arusha from May 1-3, 2022

Noting that no single actor has the capacity to address the multifaceted challenges related to freedom of expression, press freedom, access to information and the safety of journalists, UNESCO advocated in this session for multistakeholder approaches, coalition building which bring together the media, CSO, INGO, NGOS, Internet companies, cybersecurity managers, AI researchers and legal experts, media development partners among others.

Some of the issues the panel deliberated on included lessons learned from the past solidarity efforts, what is working and what can be strengthened, gaps and opportunities by understanding the emerging trends and how African media stakeholders can better collaborate.  The panelists also agreed on the fact that African media partners want to see themselves as part of the process in providing solutions and not as mere recipients.

The recommendations from this session included in the Arusha Declaration  called on the African Media stakeholders to develop a framework for an effective media coalition. Furthermore, to enhance collaborative efforts among journalists, media, professional organizations and CSOs to enhance relationships and promote professionalism, media freedom, safety and security of journalists in Africa.

In moving this forward with these recommendations, Ethiopia Editors Forum is  tasked with putting  together a working group from the different stakeholders to  deliberate on how to  build and strengthen solidarity among African Media stakeholders.

Drawing from recommendations in a related session on the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity (UNPA), the Arusha Declaration called on the African Media in coordination with other stakeholders to jointly carry out an annual independent press freedom and safety of journalists’ assessment.  The annual assessment is to be based on indicators agreed on by the stakeholders, with flexibility of additional focus on emerging issues. Furthermore, the African Media stakeholders deliberated on coordination of the follow-up regional consultations to contribute to the report from Africa on strengthening the UNPA.

The African Media Convention in Arusha was organised with support from the UNESCO Multi-donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists and the Danish Funds-In-Trust Project on  Enhancing the Safety of Journalists in Africa and the Arab Region ( Denmark to strengthen UNESCO’s work on safety of journalists in Africa and the Arab Region | UNESCO)