Reference Group Constituted to Oversee Revision of Declaration on Freedom of Expression Principles in Africa

A Reference Group made up civil society organizations from across Africa has been constituted to lead the process of revising the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa under the direction and guidance of Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Lawrence Mute.

Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Lawrence Mute.
Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Lawrence Mute.

The Reference Group is made up of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) with its secretariat in Kampala, Uganda; the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), in Johannesburg, South Africa; the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, also in South Africa; the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) with its Africa office in Abuja; the Centre for Reproductive Rights in Nairobi, Kenya; Media Rights Agenda (MRA) in Lagos, Nigeria; the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) in Nairobi; the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in Accra, Ghana; the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) with its Secretariat in Dakar, Senegal; and the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.

The constitution of the Reference Group was announced by Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of MRA, on behalf of the Co-Chairs of the Experts and Stakeholders Meeting on the Revision of the Declaration of Principles held on April 22, 2018 in Nouakchott, Mauritania, ahead of the 62nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.  The meeting was co-chaired by Commissioner Mute and Mr. Ojo. The Experts and Stakeholders Meeting itself was convened by the Special Rapporteur in collaboration with MFWA, KICTANet and MRA, with support from Global Partners Digital (GPD) in London.

Mr. Ojo said he was announcing the constitution of the Reference Group following consultations between the Co-chairs, namely himself and Commissioner Mute, who is also the Vice Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, based in Banjul, The Gambia.

The Experts and Stakeholders Meeting brought together freedom of expression and access to information advocates on the African continent as well as other stakeholders to discuss proposals on the process and strategies for undertaking the revision of the Declaration of Principles.  It was also attended by Mr. Guy Berger, Director of Freedom of Expression and Media Development at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Mr. Berger pledged UNESCO’s support for the consultative process and offered to help make expertise available for the envisaged revision.

Participants at the April 22 Experts and Stakeholders Meeting in Nouakchott
Participants at the April 22 Experts and Stakeholders Meeting in Nouakchott

He proposed that the new issues that should be covered in the revised Declaration could include matters like the fair allocation of radio frequencies, including wireless internet and broadcast sectors; the role of online intermediaries, media online, and media and information literacy.

He also presented the findings of the recent UNESCO report on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, highlighting its value in the context of the proposed revision of the Declaration.  He noted that issues of Internet shut-downs, blocking and filtering, arbitrary surveillance, protection of confidentiality of journalists’ sources in the digital age, and the safety of journalists online were covered in the Report.

Following the conclusion of the Experts and Stakeholders Meeting, the Special Rapporteur outlined the priorities and timelines for the process of revising the Declaration of Principles, which included:

  • The constitution of the Reference Group on the Revision of the Declaration on the Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa by May 22;
  • The preparation of a draft technical paper detailing the proposed revisions, guided by the conclusions of the experts’ meeting by mid-June 2018;
  • The circulation of the draft paper for feedback before finalization by the end of June 2018;
  • The preparation of a draft of the revised principles by end of July 2018;
  • The publication of the draft of the revised principles of on the Commission’s website for feedback as part of public consultation over a period of two months, to terminate by mid-September 2018;
  • The revision of the draft of the revised principles on basis of the feedback received by the end of September 2018;
  • An initial presentation of the draft revised principles to the African Commission at its second Ordinary Session, which will take place in October 2018;
  • A final subsequent revision in good time for presentation to the Commission for adoption at next year’s (2019) first Extra-ordinary Session or at the latest, at the Commission’s first Ordinary Session that year.

Commissioner Mute said although the proposed timelines are tight, they are based on the assumption that that some of participants at the experts meeting will offer both technical and political leadership and that the resources required for the exercise will be available to support the necessary activities that will arise from the project.

MRA Accuses Federal Government of Condoning ‘Unbridled Impunity’ in Implementation of FOI Act

Mr. Abubakar Malami,  Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice
Mr. Abubakar Malami,
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice

Lagos, Monday, May 28, 2018: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today accused the Federal Government of condoning “unbridled impunity” by hundreds of public institutions that have refused to implement the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), 2011 or comply with their obligations under the Law, saying the situation makes a mockery of the Administration’s claim that it is committed to transparency and accountability.

Announcing the release of a publication to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the signing of the FOI Bill into Law by then President Goodluck Jonathan on May 28, 2011, Mr. Ridwan Sulaimon, MRA’s Programme Manager for Freedom of Information, noted that “the scale of non-compliance with the provisions of the FOI Act by public institutions under the authority and direct control of the Federal Government is mind-boggling” adding that the failure of the Government to sanction such institutions or their chief executives can only be interpreted as evidence of its lack of interest in seeing the Law enforced.

Titled “Unbridled Impunity: An Analysis of the 2011 – 2017 Annual Reports on the Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 Submitted to the National Assembly by the Attorney General of the Federation”, the publication highlights “massive violations” of the FOI Act by public institutions, especially the provisions of section 29 of the Act, which requires all public institutions to submit annual reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation detailing the level of implementation of the Law by the respective agencies.

The publication notes that “While the impunity in the non-submission of annual reports over the last seven years by more than 90 per cent of Federal public institutions remained unrestrained, the inadequacies contained even in most of the reports submitted by those institutions that have bothered to do so are very alarming.”

Mr. Sulaimon contended that “It is inconceivable that if the Federal Government takes the implementation of the FOI Act seriously and accordingly instructs all public institutions to comply with and fully implement the provisions of the Act, no public institution would dare to disobey such a directive. If public institutions are ignoring their duties and obligations under the Act and are refusing to implement its provisions, it can only be because they are confident that there will be no negative consequences for them.”

The publication examines seven annual reports for 2011 to 2017 submitted by the Attorney-General of the Federation to the National Assembly on the Implementation of the Act, pursuant to Section 29 of the Law. It notes that the reports submitted by the Attorney-General have evolved over the years from the scanty reports produced for 2011 and 2012 to the reports in recent years which have been fairly detailed, although gaps remain.

Following a detailed analysis of the reports, MRA observed in the publication that “For the seven years that the Attorney-General of the Federation has compiled FOI implementation reports, 141 public institutions have submitted a total of 323 reports. Most of the public institutions submitted reports just once during the seven years under review while some submitted twice. Some submitted three times, some four, five and six times. Only the Federal Ministry of Justice/Office of the Attorney General of the Federation has submitted reports for all the seven years.”

Providing further details, the publication said based on the reports issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation, only 16 public institutions out of over 700 Federal public institutions submitted their annual reports for 2011; 29 submitted their reports for 2012; while 47 submitted for 2013, although the Attorney-General’s report put the number at 51 because the late reports submitted for 2012 by four public institutions were added to those for 2013.

For the year 2014, 60 public institutions submitted annual reports, although only 33 of this number submitted their reports before the February 1 deadline stipulated by the Act while 27 submitted their reports late; 44 public institutions submitted for 2015; 54 for 2016; and 73 for 2017.

MRA criticized the Attorney-General of the Federation for not doing enough to discharge his oversight responsibility under Section 29(6) of the FOI Act to ensure that all public institutions to which the Act applies comply with its provisions.

Mr. Sulaimon said: “It is ironic that although the FOI Act imposes a duty on the Attorney-General of the Federation to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act, in dozens of cases where citizens and organizations have sued public institutions before various courts across the country, it is the office of the same Attorney-General of the Federation that comes to court to defend those public institutions for their unjustifiable violation of the clear provisions of the Law, sometimes proffering ridiculous arguments in their defence.”

He cited cases such as MRA’s suit against the Nigerian Police; another suit by Enough is Enough against the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and the case of F.O.C. Uzoegwu Esq. against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), arguing that it would better suit the responsibility of the Attorney-General of the Federation under the FOI Act for him to offer free legal services to members of the public who might want to enforce their right to information or other provisions of the Act against public institution as that is consistent with his statutory role under the Act.

MRA urged the Attorney-General of the Federation to explore the possibility of imposing administrative sanctions against public institutions that are not complying with their duties and obligations under the FOI Act, such as withholding legal assistance or representation by the Federal Ministry of Justice to such public institutions that are not submitting annual reports or are in breach of the provisions of the Act in any other way.

For further information, please contact:

Ridwan Sulaimon
Programme Manager, Freedom of Information
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos

National Inland Waterways Authority inducted into ‘FOI Hall of Shame’

Bar. Danladi Ibrahim
Bar. Danladi Ibrahim, Acting MD/CEO, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA)

Lagos, Monday, May 21, 2018: Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today named the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) the latest recipient of the “Freedom of Information (FOI) Hall of Shame” award, accusing the agency of consistently violating its obligations under the FOI Act.

NIWA, which was previously known as the Inland Waterways Department (IWD) of the Federal Ministry of Transport, metamorphosed into an agency of its own following the passage of Decree No. 13 of 1997 (now an Act of the National Assembly), which established it as public institution.

It was tasked with developing and improving Nigeria’s inland waterways for navigation and also given the responsibility of providing regulatory, economic and operational leadership in the nation’s Inland Waterways system. Its mandate also includes the development of infrastructural facilities for an efficient intermodal transportation system in line with global best practices.
In a statement in Lagos, MRA’s Project Director, Mr. Segun Fatuase, noted that the agency appears to have failed completely in its assigned goals, particularly to make Nigeria the leader in inland water transportation, development and management in Africa, adding that “the agency has been lagging behind in the production, publication and broadcasting of navigational publi­cations, bulletins and notices, hydrological year books, river charts and river maps.”

According to him, the agency’s various lapses have also denied citizens the right and ability to obtain information from it, including information relevant to the issuance of licenses for inland navigation, piers, jetties and dockyards, the granting of permits and licenses for sand dredging, pipeline construction, dredging of slots as well as the approval of designs and construction of inland river crafts.

He said: “Equally worrisome is the fact that the citizenry have also been kept in the dark concerning the crucial role of NIWA in ensuring the development of infrastructural facilities for national inland waterways connectivity with economic centers using the river ports and nodal points for inter-nodal exchanges.”

Mr. Fatuase, noted that NIWA, which is under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Transport as well as a Board of Directors, with 533 staff members on its payroll, has failed to provide clear details of the designations and salaries of its staff as stipulated by the FOI Act.

According to him, the day-to-day operations of the agency are shrouded in secrecy, with only some top officials such as the Managing Director and 12 General Managers identified while the salaries of all other staff remain secret, contrary to the provisions of the FOI Act.

Besides, he said, the agency has also not proactively published other categories of information outlined in the FOI Act that must be proactively disclosed.

Highlighting other failings of NIWA, Mr. Fatuase said although little known by the public, NIWA plays a vital role in providing an alternative mode of transportation for the evacuation of economic goods and persons as well as developing inland waterways for navigation, adding that as a critical public institution, it should be seen as law abiding, transparent and accountable rather being opaque in its operations.

He said: “NIWA’s lack of transparency is bound to result in a lack of public trust in it and its operations, thereby eroding public confidence in its ability to execute the objectives of the national transport policy as they concern inland waterways.”

Mr. Fatuase said the Annual Reports on the Implementation of the FOI Act, submitted to the National Assembly by the Attorney-General of the Federation since 2012 show that NIWA has consistently failed to submit its own annual FOI Implementation reports over the last seven years, a glaring indication that the organization has failed to comply with this obligation since the Act was enacted.

Deprecating NIWA’s lack of responsiveness to requests for information from the public, he cited a February 19, 2015 request by a non-governmental organization, Women’s Right to Education Programme (WREP), and the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), asking for information regarding NIWA’s preparations and plans for the conduct of the 2015 elections, the level of its presence in some states and the extent of life-saving equipment that it has available. The agency ignored both requests.

Mr. Fatuase regretted that NIWA’s failure to submit its annual FOI implementation reports since the enactment of the Act has made it impossible to determine the number of applications for access to information that it has received for each year since 2011 and the number of such applications that it processed and granted in any particular year.

He said it was also clear from the 2017 Annual Report on the Implementation of the FOI Act by the Attorney-General of the Federation that NIWA is also in breach of  Section 2(3)(f) of the FOI Act, which mandates every public institution to designate an appropriate officer to whom applications for information from members of the public should be sent and to proactively publish the title and address of such an officer.

Criticizing NIWA for its lackadaisical attitude towards the implementation of the FOI Act, he noted its obvious disregard for Section 13 of the Act which requires every public institution to ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right of access to information and for the effective implementation of the Act.

MRA called on the management of NIWA to take necessary measures to redeem the image of the organization by ensuring that it complies with all its obligations under the FOI Act and the Guidelines on the Implementation of the Act issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation.

It also urged relevant committees of the National Assembly to wake up to their responsibility of ensuring the effective implementation of the Act by ensuring that NIWA and other institutions covered by the Act, fully implement all their obligations under the Law.

Launched in July 2017, the FOI Hall of Shame shines the spotlight on public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FOI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances and decisions.

For further information, please contact:

Ridwan Sulaimon
Programme Manager, Freedom of Information
Media Rights Agenda, Lagos

IPC Lagos Trains Monitors for Media Coverage of the Electoral Processes and the 2019 Elections

Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director,  International Press centre
Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director,
International Press centre

The International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos has conducted a week-long training programme for media monitors and other project personnel to implement its project on the monitoring of media performance in the coverage of the electoral processes ahead of the 2019 elections. The monitoring exercise will be both qualitative and quantitative in nature.

The training which took place from May 9 to 11, 2018 was meant to equip the monitors to carry out the exercise which will last for 24 months and  cover  10 Nigerian national/regional newspapers and two online media.

It was carried out by the duo of Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Media Rights Agenda’s (MRA) Executive Director and Ridwan Sulaimon, MRA’s Programme manager for Freedom of Information while, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, IPC’s Executive Director gave the welcome remarks as well as laid out the key issues to be monitored.

The first day of the monitoring delved into the theoretical foundation of media monitoring and explored several topics including Overview of Media Monitoring – Methodology, Objectives, Context, Scope, and Duration; Issues to be Monitored; Media to be Monitored and their Characteristics; Type of Content to be Monitored etc.

The second day continued with the theoretical foundation exploring topics that included Monitoring Codes and their Importance in Media Monitoring; Designing and Developing Codes for the Monitoring Exercise;; and Media Monitoring Forms and their Importance in the Exercise. It also went into the practical aspects of the monitoring with Sulaimon taking participants through the nitty gritty of  gathering the different data needed to be analysed for the exercise.

The third and final day reviewed the first two days and also explored the structure of the project and the procedure to be adopted in the monitoring exercise reporting including filing of monitoring reports, analysis of the data, collation of reports and the structure of project reports. Other important aspects of the monitoring  training also treated on the third day included  entering of data from monitoring exercise into database; running standardized queries; writing/editing of periodic reports of findings; and production of tables, graphs and charts.

The third day was also devoted to more practical exercises while issues that were not initially clear from the theoretical aspects were cleared. The practical exercises also provided the monitors with real hands-on monitoring as well as launched them into the project.

The media monitoring activity aims at providing scientific and evidence-backed information on media performance in the coverage of the electoral processes and the 2019 elections.

The outcome is planned to be used to engage journalists and media gate keepers at quarterly media round-table on the need to adhere to professional and ethical standards in the coverage of the electoral process and elections while giving prominence to the issues of  citizens, women, youths, and Persons Living with Disabilities (PWDs), among others.

The exercise will also incorporate the documentation of electoral (campaign) promises of presidential candidates of the political parties in the 2019 elections.

IPC Lagos is implementing the exercise under Component 4b of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project.

Delta, Gombe, 6 Other States to Switch Over to Digital TV Broadcasting in 2018, Says NBC

Mr. Is’Haq Modibbo Kawu, The Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)
Mr. Is’Haq Modibbo Kawu, The Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)

As Nigeria continues to implement its Digital Switch Over (DSO) commitment, the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mr Is’haq Modibbo Kawu has announced that eight states of the federation will switch over to digital television broadcasting before the end of 2018, noting that the digital mapping of the entire Country will be concluded soon.

Speaking at the first Nigerian International Television (NITV) Summit in Paris, France on April 30, 2018 in a presentation titled: “Overview of the Digital Switch-Over in Nigeria: Investment opportunities of the DSO project”, the DG said “facilities are being put in place now for the switchover in Delta and Gombe states. We are also committed to switching on in six other states before the end of 2018.”

Mr Kawu pointed out that Nigeria recently switched on in Jos, Plateau state; the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); Kwara; Kaduna; Enugu and Osun states, after missing some initially scheduled dates for the transition.

However, he reaffirmed the commitment of the Commission, saying: “the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the driving government agency for the project, working closely with Digiteam Nigeria, the implementation Committee, has shown commitment to the transition through the implementation of several critical requirements of the DSO as enunciated by the Federal Government’s White Paper on the Digital Switch Over.”
He added that apart from the eight states which will switch on in 2018, the Commission was also at the conclusion of the digital mapping of the entire country.

Also, speaking on the revenue sources for the DSO in Nigeria, Mr Kawu said: “So far, the DSO process has been able to raise these funds: 1. Lease of Spectrum: N35 Billion; 2.Signal Distributor License Fee: N650million * 2 = N 1.3billion; 3.STB Manufacturers Authorization Fee: N50Million* 7 = N 350Million; 4.Content Aggregator License Fee: N150 Million;” adding that the total expected revenue from TV License Fee is 39 Billion Naira per annum with the expectation of increasing to 333Billion Naira per annum by 2030.

Detailing the implementation of the digitization process, Mr Kawu noted that a total of 13 local set-top-box manufacturers were authorized to manufacture the estimated 22Million Set-Top-Boxes for Nigeria’s television homes in the DSO. “Six of these companies have set-up in-country plants for the purpose of assembly and eventual production of the boxes in Nigeria,” he said.

“The DSO White Paper provided for the reservation of a licence for an independent signal distribution operator to be created out of the Federal government’s Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), leveraging on the existing infrastructure for deployment of the DTT network in Nigeria. That company is already operating as the Integrated Television Services (ITS) Limited. ITS is transmitting DTT signals for Plateau, Kwara, Osun and Enugu states”.

“The second company emerged through an open, competitive bidding process. That is Pinnacle Communications Limited. Pinnacle Communications Limited is already transmitting in the Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna states. They are in the midst of installation of facilities now, for the roll out in Delta and Gombe states. The NBC commissioned Inview Limited to provide a Conditional Access System in Nigerian-manufactured Set-Top-Boxes. While our Call Center operators are the Out Source Company, another indigenous company, Cable Channels Nigeria Limited (CCNL) is managing the marketing and aggregation of the 30 channels we are presently broadcasting in two multiplexes, of our DTT proposition,” Mr Kawu noted.

Mr Kawu also talked about the media policy of Nigeria, saying that a cardinal point of the Policy is the promotion of local content in the Country’s creative industry. For instance, he said, “government deliberately instituted a local content ratio of 60-40 percent local to foreign content, to ensure the growth of the local creative industry: music, drama film and television.”

In the same vein, he added, “When government discovered that the valuable family belt of 6.00pm to 10.00pm on television was dominated by foreign content, government instituted a policy requesting television stations to ensure that only indigenous local content was aired at that prime time belt. That also assisted local content to gain traction and to enjoy advertising spend, which was hitherto spent on the foreign productions that used to dominate television in Nigeria.”

With the DSO process, 70 percent of all content in Nigeria would be expected to be local, Mr Kawu declared.

Free Expression Special Rapporteurs Release 2018 Joint Declaration

11The four international Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression have released their “2018 Joint Declaration on Media Independence and Diversity in the Digital Age” ahead of the World Press Freedom Day celebration on May 3, 2018.

David Kaye, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression; Harlem Desir, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media; Edison Lanza, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Lawrence Mute, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information worked on the declaration in conjunction with ARTICLE 19, Global Campaign for Free Expression, and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD).

The Joint Declaration responds to a variety of new and old threats to independence and diversity of the media, setting out the standards that states have to meet to ensure genuine protection for press freedom in the modern world.

The threats addressed by the Declaration come from a range of actors including hostile statements from public officials, the abusive use of government power, physical attacks, harassment and intimidation towards individual journalists and impunity for these attacks, and emerging online threats.

The Joint Declaration recognised the challenges faced by the media in today’s digital economy and the changes brought about by these challenges. It points to the need to counter such issues and the effects the digital age is having on the media.

Special Rapporteurs have issued Joint Declarations on contemporary challenges to freedom of expression every year since 1999. This Declaration was therefore a follow up to Joint Declarations of 26 November 1999, 30 November 2000, 20 November 2001, 10 December 2002, 18 December 2003, 6 December 2004, 21 December 2005, 19 December 2006, 12 December 2007, 10 December 2008, 15 May 2009, 3 February 2010, 1 June 2011, 25 June 2012, 4 May 2013, 6 May 2014, 4 May 2015, 4 May 2016 and 3 March 2017.

The 2018 Joint Declaration makes a number of recommendations to States and other relevant stakeholders. These include creating an enabling environment for seeking, receiving and imparting information and ideas, including through legislation that fully complies with international freedom of expression standards; and guaranteeing respect for media independence and, in particular, editorial independence and the independence of media regulatory bodies.

The Declaration also recommended that State Members be scrupulous about promoting and protecting media freedom and independence during elections, respecting the right of the media to report freely during election periods and to criticise government policy and political figures.

Another important recommendation is the protection of journalists and others who are at risk of being attacked for exercising their right to freedom of expression, to launch effective investigations when such attacks do occur, so that those responsible may be held accountable, and to offer effective remedies to victims.

The Declaration asked that effective systems be put in place to ensure transparency, fairness and non-discrimination in access by the media to State resources, including public advertising and create an economic environment which supports a diverse media landscape. It also sought  to ensure that all aspects of media markets, including advertising, content production and distribution, operate in a fair and competitive manner which is protected against anti-competitive practices on the part of those holding strong or dominant market positions.

Surveillance was also covered by the declaration as it sought to ensure that State Members do not conduct surveillance, including of a digital nature, against media outlets or journalists unless provided by law and is necessary and proportionate to protect a legitimate State interest and put in place effective practical and enforceable measures to avoid identifying confidential journalistic sources indirectly.

Other actors addressed by the Declaration include politicians, public officials, media outlets, and online platforms. It asked media outlets and online platforms to operate as transparently as possible, give users the tools needed to identify content creators, and prioritisation in a non-discriminatory and technologically neutral way as well as to take their responsibility to respect human rights seriously. The Declaration noted that this will enhance their social responsibility and professionally push  for the adoption of code of conduct, fact checking and self-regulatory systems.

The Declaration can be found here.

Applications Now Open for 2018 ITM’s Journalist -In-Residence Programme

Prof. Dr. Bruno Gryseels, Director, Institute of Tropical Medicine
Prof. Dr. Bruno Gryseels, Director, Institute of Tropical Medicine

The Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM), based in Antwerp, Belgium, is now accepting applications for the fifth edition of its Journalist-in-Residence programme.

The Journalist-in-Residence programme offers a unique opportunity for reporters, producers, and editors to work on an exciting project in the realm of tropical medicine and global health (a documentary, or a series of articles, for instance).

Since its inception, ITM has  leveraged and advanced medical science to solve tropical, poverty-related and global health threats through fundamental and applied research, advanced education and expert services.

Selected journalists  will interact with world experts in a wide range of topics in biomedical sciences, clinical sciences and public health. As ITM journalist-in-residence, he or she will have time to explore different areas or delve deeply into a single topic.

Applicants will also have the opportunity  to participate in a variety of scientific meetings, seminars and other learning experiences, as well as enjoy quiet time for reading and independent study.

This initiative is part of ITM’s capacity building programme in developing countries financed by the Belgian Directorate-General for Development (DGD).Read more about the work of the previous Journalists-in-Residence.

Please visit here for the  Journalist-in-Residence 2018 application form.

MFWA Calls for Entries for Second Edition of Regional Media Awards

Sulemana Braimah, MFWA Executive Director
Sulemana Braimah, MFWA Executive Director

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is calling for entries for the second edition of the West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA) which is slated for October 12 and 13, 2018 in Accra, Ghana.

The Awards Ceremony will also honour West African journalists who have produced compelling works which have had a significant impact on society. The Awards are opened to journalists from print, electronic and online media in Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone countries in West Africa.

WAMECA is an initiative of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) to promote media excellence in the sub-region. The Conference will deliberate on key challenges to media development and explore ways in which stakeholders can effectively support the media to promote good governance, regional integration, and peace in West Africa.

WAMECA 2018 will honour outstanding works of journalism in West Africa in the following categories: Telecoms Reporting, ICTs Reporting, Oil and Gas Reporting, Banking and Finance Reporting, Business and SMEs Reporting, Environmental Reporting, SDGs Reporting, Investigative Reporting, Anti-Corruption Reporting, Human Rights Reporting, Health Reporting, ECOWAS and Regional Integration Reporting, Peace and Security Reporting and Photo Journalism.

Applicants must be West African, working with and for media organisation(s) based in West Africa. An Entry for the Awards must have been published or broadcast between the period January 1 to December 31, 2017.

Interested applicants should upload published works via the entry form, here. The entry should be an original work published through a media outlet in West Africa and must show the date of publication/broadcast and the medium in which the work was published. Applicants may submit entries to a maximum of two categories. For each category, a maximum of two entries is permitted.

Finalists for the awards will be hosted at West Africa Media Excellence Conference on October 12-13 2018, where the awards ceremony will be held. The Conference will feature sessions on topical journalism issues and also provide opportunities for networking among journalists, editors, and experts from West Africa.

The deadline for the submission of the entries is on June 30, 2018, at 17.00 GMT. Finalists for WAMECA 2018 Awards will be announced on September 11, 2018.

Accra Declaration Emerges from 2018 WPFD Celebrations

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO

On May 3, 2018, the Accra Declaration “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law” was adopted by acclamation at the close of the 25th global commemoration of World Press Freedom Day which took place in Accra, Ghana on May 2 and 3.

The Declaration calls on UNESCO member states to create, strengthen and/or implement the much needed enabling legal and policy framework to ensure respect for freedom of expression and privacy, foster a diverse, independent media sector and ensure that relevant officials are properly trained so as to respect that frame work in practice in line with international standards.

The international conference which took place on May 2 and 3, 2018 was organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in partnership with the Government of Ghana. Since the global commemoration of this day in 1993, this was  the fourth time the event was held in Africa.

The theme of the event was Media, Justice and the Rule of Law and it was attended by about 800 participants including investigative journalists, representatives of media publishers, editors, researchers, policy actors, representatives of the judiciary and students of journalism.

The Declaration arose out of concern about the conditions journalists face in many countries – being denied their rights to freely join or form organizations to defend themselves and/or protect their rights; about the unacceptably high rate of attacks on journalists, including digital attacks on female journalists, and the equally unacceptably high rate of impunity for these crimes.

There were also concerns about the continuing challenges to meaningful access to and use of the Internet, and the impact on freedom of expression of disproportionate regulatory responses regarding the Internet; disturbed by the growing number of intentional disruptions of communications networks and platforms, which violates the right to freedom of expression and hampers sustainable development; and convinced that professional, independent journalism, based on independently verifiable facts, and, in particular, investigative journalism, play an essential role in  holding governments and other powerful actors to account, keeping the public informed, exposing wrongdoing, creating spaces for healthy public debate and enabling public participation in decision-making.

Participants urged Member States to embrace an inclusive, participatory approach to developing laws and policies to ensure respect for freedom of expression and enhance judicial independence and the capacity of administration of justice actors—including the police, prosecutors and judges—to respect freedom of expression themselves, ensure that those responsible for threats or attacks against journalists, media outlets and others for exercising their right to freedom of expression are brought to justice via fair and impartial proceedings, and, otherwise, to decide cases that raise freedom of expression issues in line with international standards.

The Declaration alongside outlining UNESCO’s responsibility and urging action from member states, also made recommendations to journalists, civil society, academia and the technical community. It aims to honour journalists and media workers who contribute to media freedom through their work and commitment— often at the risk of their safety and personal security. It also seeks to address other issues such as the particular difficulties of protecting, in the digital era, confidential journalistic sources, which is a pre-requisite for independent journalism; and alarmed at the proliferation of laws restricting freedom of expression in the name of protecting national security and combating extremism and terrorism which fail to respect relevant international standards.

The Accra Declaration is available here.