African Media Convention ends with pledges of support for press freedom

Zambian Minister for Information and Media Chushi Kasanda at the convention. [William Oloo Janak]

The 2nd African Media Convention ended in Lusaka, Zambia today with representatives of the UN, the African Union, the European Union, African Governments and major media organizations in the continent pledging enhanced support for press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information.

The officials who included the UN Resident Representative in Zambia Ms Beatrice Mutali, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa Prof Lidia Arthur Brito, Head of Communication at the African Union Commission Ms Wynne Busabayana, Head of European Delegation to Zambia and COMESA Jacek Jankowski, and the Zambian Minister for Information and Media Ms Chushi Kasanda, said the media deserved support as a key pillar for the protection and enjoyment of all other rights and democracy in Africa.  

This position was endorsed by senior government officials from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Ghana, Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), Congress of African Journalists (CAJ), Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), The African Editors Forum, Southern Africa Editors Forum (SAEF), East Africa Editors Society (EAES), WAN-IFRA-Women in Media, African Women in Media. Media Institute of Southern Africa(MISA), The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), the International Association of Women in Radio and TV (IAWRT) and other press freedom support groups at the media convention. 

UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa Prof Lidia Arthur Brito at the convention.  [William Oloo Janak]

Addressing the closing session, Ms Butali said the UN was committed to supporting press freedom in Africa and emphasized the importance of the media by quoting the message of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2023:

“Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and justice. It gives all of us the facts we need to shape opinions and speak truth to power…press freedom represents the very lifeblood of human rights.”

She urged African governments to improve the media environment in their countries through legal reforms to remove archaic and draconian laws that impeded press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information and align all their laws to international human rights laws.

“As the UN, we remain committed to working with the governments and media to ensure the realization of greater media freedoms and ensure that information serves the greater public good and ultimately promote the realization of other human rights,” she said.

Prof Brito said UNESCO would continue supporting the growth of the African media and efforts to secure the safety of journalists by working together with African states and media stakeholders including support to the annual African Media Convention as an important platform for discourse and promotion of press freedom and human rights.

Ms Musabayana said the AU will commit more resources to support journalists in Africa which included the ongoing pilot project of awarding fellowships to journalists. She urged journalists to use their platforms, to inform and engage with citizens of the continent and to support the Commission in amplifying the key messages of celebrating the AU/OAU 60th Anniversary since its founding on May 25,1963.   She lauded Zambia and other countries which had begun promoting the AU agenda and African voices through their media outlets.

The EU Ambassador Jacek Jankowski said journalists faced threats in their work globally adding that journalists in Africa faced more threats, both offline and online but said the EU would support efforts at building their resilience to continue their important role of promoting the enjoyment of rights and democracy.

EU ambassador Jacek Jankowski at the convention. [William Oloo Janak]

“The preservation of free, independent and pluralistic media is vital for a resilient and healthy democracy. Yet press freedom is still at stake in most parts of the world today. Journalists and other media workers increasingly face threats and attacks from enemies of truth and freedom,” said the envoy.

On her part, Zambian Minister for Information and Media Ms Kasanda said the government was committed to improving the press freedom environment and had lifted restrictions on the operations of media outlets that had been barred from operating by the previous regime.

She said the government was working with media stakeholders to review laws that impeded media freedom and the enjoyment of other rights including access to information adding that the spirit of openness informed the government's support and hosting of the 2nd African Media Convention in Lusaka this year.

The delegates adopted a raft of resolutions arising from the convention which addressed various concerns affecting media freedom and the enjoyment of rights. The resolutions called for urgent and collaborative action by African states, the AU, international bodies, development partners, media agencies and journalists to create the desired environment for press freedom to thrive and promote the enjoyment of rights and nurture democracy in the continent.

The 3rd African Media Convention will be hosted by the Ghanaian government and the Ghana Journalists Association whose bid was supported unanimously by delegates at the convention.