Journalists from all corners of Africa yesterday launched a new
continental federation to provide a unified voice for newsroom staff
campaigning for better working conditions and professional rights, according to a release from the International Federation of Journalists.

The Federation of African Journalists was launched at a congress in Abuja on the theme of "Building a Strong and United Voice for African Journalists" that included participants from 20 countries and leaders of sub-regional groups representing journalists from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. The Federation began its work with a stinging attack on countries they accuse of denying media rights, which they said should be condemned by the African Union.

"We welcome this historic moment of unity and solidarity for Africa," said Jim Boumelha, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) President, who was present at the conference hosted by the Nigeria National Union of Journalists, the continent's largest journalists' group. "Journalists are angry at the way governments and authorities abuse media. They are determined to fight for their rights and they want a single, unified Federation that will speak for all African journalists and that will ensure actions to support African journalism are led and driven by African journalists themselves."

The Federation of African Journalists comes into being after regional conferences over the past two years and calls for more unity from successive world congresses of the IFJ in Athens and Moscow. The process has been boosted by the strengthening of co-operation between existing networks of journalists in the west, east, south and northern regions, which together embrace all language and ethnic groups on the continent.

The Federation's first public statement was to issue a strong protest over African governments that jail journalists and encourage a culture of impunity by failing to investigate violent attacks on media staff.

"These governments shame Africa and make a mockery of commitments to pluralism and democracy," said the Federation.

The Federation called on the African Union and the United Nations Human Rights Commissioners to investigate, expose and take appropriate action against states violating the fundamental rights of the people of Africa.

In particular, the Federation called on the African Union Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa to investigate the actions of governments including "Somalia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Niger, Gambia, Tunisia, Egypt, and Swaziland where there have been credible reports of serious violations of journalists' rights."

One of the first actions of the new Federation, which will hold its first statutory continental congress next year, will be to seek immediate recognition by the African Union and the agencies of the United Nations. The Federation will be supported by the IFJ and the Nigeria Union of Journalists in the initial phase of its work.

Click here to read the declaration launching the Federation of African Journalists: