THE African Editors' Forum (Taef) has voiced concern at developments in Niger and other "media battlefields", but congratulated Namibian editors for establishing a self-regulatory mechanism, according to a statement.

The African Editors' Forum statement reads:

This statement is issued at the closing of a meeting of the Editors’ Council of The African Editors' Forum (Taef) held in Grahamstown, South Africa and attended by senior media practitioners representing their colleagues from eastern, western, central and southern Africa, just prior to the 2009 Highway Africa conference, with the theme of “2010, development and democracy”.

Taef noted that if the media of Africa is to have the ability to focus and reflect on 2010, development and democracy, then the media in Africa needs to be free. Unfortunately, many areas of our continent, namely: Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan,Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Swaziland and many others, are battlefields where the rights of journalists to do their work is hindered deliberately by various governments and rebel forces.

The release this week of all six Gambian journalists who had been imprisoned last month on spurious charges of defamation and sedition was noted by TAEF and welcomed. The six were given Presidential pardons. TAEF had always maintained that the arrests were unnecessary, arbitrary and a form of harassment. We reiterate our stand that the Gambian government should observe its obligations in terms of both continental and international law. We also hope that this provides an opportunity for the Gambian government and the independent media to open dialogue.

The six are: Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Emil Touray and Pa Modou Faal, GPU vice president, secretary general and treasurer respectively; Pap Saine and Ebou Sawaneh, Publisher and Editor of the Point Newspaper; and Sam Sarr, Editor of Foroyaa newspaper.

Taef expressed deep concern and fear that by the end of this year, Niger may become the African country where journalists are detained the most. Eight publishers of newspapers have been interrogated because they have reported on corruption that has implicated the son of the President.

The most serious case at present is that of Abdoulaye Tiémogo, publisher of the independent weekly Le Canard déchaîné, who has a bad case of malaria and is imprisoned without the medical care that he needs. Tiémogo was jailed last month on a charge of “discrediting a judicial decision”. The editors of Niger are trying to put together legal assistance fund for journalists.

Taef congratulated the editors of Nambia for successfully organising and putting into place a system of national media self-regulation through a Press Ombudsman. We wish them well in the formation of their Press Council to work with the Ombudsman.

Taef also congratulated colleagues in Cote d'Ivoire for negotiating the deleting of arrear tax and three others that were hampering the growth of media in the country.

TAEF reiterated its objection to the establishment of the Pan Africa Media Observatory by the African Union and the European Union, and called for the reopening of discussion on the need and nature of such a body.