The just concluded 2nd African Media Convention on World Press Freedom has pledged to prioritize push for press freedom and human rights.
The convention held in Lusaka, Zambia between May 11 and 13, brought together media stakeholders from across the African continent.
The convention came after the first one held in Arusha, Tanzania in 2022, and coincided with the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).
The stakeholders noted sustained violations against freedom of the press despite the UN General Assembly proclaiming May 3 as World Press Freedom 30 years ago, and 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.
We are deeply concerned about the levels of impunity and rising cases of violations against journalists and media workers in Africa which erodes the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, access to information, assembly and association and to political participationAfrican Media Stakeholders
In the Lusaka Declaration, the stakeholders pledged to address the state of the media in Africa, highlighting concerns such as violations against freedom of the press, rising cases of violations against journalists and media workers, and the criminalization of many areas of journalistic practice.
“We are deeply concerned about the levels of impunity and rising cases of violations against journalists and media workers in Africa which erodes the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, access to information, assembly and association and to political participation,” read the declaration in part.
It went on: “We are further concerned that many areas of journalistic practice have been criminalised, with the adoption of cyber crime laws prohibiting the publication of false news or news deemed to threaten national security or public health.”
The declaration also called for enhanced collaboration between media stakeholders, governments, internet intermediaries, civil society, and other organizations to mitigate the effects of such violations and create a conducive offline and online environment for the media.
Additionally, the declaration has urged Africa Union member states to commit to assessing the progress of Sustainable Development Goals on public access to information and fundamental freedoms in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
It emphasized the need for countries without laws guaranteeing the right to information to draw them up urgently.
During the conference, the stakeholders appointed a steering committee of nine members to guide the strategic evolution of the annual African Media Convention.
The committee membership was drawn from media, civil society, UNESCO, AU, and academia, and will strive for equal gender representation and composition reflective of the diverse geographical scope of the continent.
“We further empower the Steering Committee to set up an annual Africa Media Review Journal to provide in-depth documentation of media developments and the Africa Media Convention. We request the steering committee of the nine members to establish follow-up mechanisms for the implementation of this and past recommendations on press freedom, access to information and safety of journalists on the African continent,” read the declaration.
The stakeholders pointed out the need for deliberate attention to media viability and sustainability, particularly for legacy media.
And in a bid to further the debate on the state of media sector in the continent, the declaration endorsed the continued organization of the African Media Convention as an annual event in commemoration of the WPFD.
The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day was “Freedom of Expression as a driver for all other human rights”.