By Binta A Bah
The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, has asks Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union, to uphold press freedom by calling for justice in journalist murders in Africa and for the release of all imprisoned journalists.
In letter, the USA-based journalists’ protection body asked the AU to mark World Press Freedom Day by calling for the release of all journalists imprisoned in Africa and appealing for justice in the murders of journalists killed in the line of duty.
On May 3, 2013, at least 41 African journalists spend World Press Freedom Day imprisoned in direct reprisal for their work.
“Critical journalists are not criminals, traitors, or terrorists,” the letter said, “Beyond supporting African journalists with training, the African Union should create an open political space that allows news media to report on issues of public interest.”
“It is particularly disturbing that Ethiopia and the Gambia, which host offices of the African Union, are among the nations holding journalists in jail,” CPJ said. “These imprisonments have silenced important voices, often in contravention of regional and international rulings.”
CPJ said The Gambia, which is home to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ACHPR, is in violation of rulings by the ECOWAS Court of Justice and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in connection to the 2006 arrest of journalist Ebrima “Chief” Manneh.
“These entities found Manneh’s detention to be unlawful, and they called for his immediate release. Alarmingly, Gambian authorities cannot account for Manneh’s whereabouts, and over the years have given evasive and inconsistent responses to regional and international inquiries,” it said.
According to the CPJ, more than 80 journalist murders, often politically motivated, have gone unsolved in Africa since 1992.
It said vibrant, independent media that hold government leaders to account are a valuable ally in the pursuit of development and good governance.
We urge you to use your office to persuade member states to comply with the letter and spirit of conventions they have signed that uphold press freedom, the letter ends.