The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the African Regional Organisation of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents more than 50,000 journalists organised in 41 journalists’ trade unions and associations in 39 African countries, expresses its disappointment over the non-inclusion of Freedom of Expression as a panel item in the agenda of the NGO Forum preceding the 49th session of the African Commission on Human People’s Rights which is scheduled to take place on 25 – 27 April 2011 by the event’s host and the main organiser.
1) FAJ received the brochure and the information from the event’s host and the main organiser, African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), on 25 March, which was also the date of the deadline for registration for NGO Forum.
2) In the circulated brochure by ACDHRS, freedom of expression was included in the “proposed agenda” of the NGO Forum.
3) Following internal consultations with its leadership, the affiliated sub-regional associations and like-minded free expression organisations, FAJ, which helped organise the last panel at the NGO Forum, formally requested that Freedom of Expression be included in the agenda of the NGO Forum. In response, the Secretariat of the ACDHRS declared that Freedom of Expression will not be in the panels of the NGO Forum due to a “late” request.
4) Though the reason for the rejection of our request for Freedom of Expression panel in the NGO Forum was given with untrue rationale, we still await the reason for the removal of freedom of expression from the “proposed agenda” according to the brochure, which also indicated that the NGO Forum agenda is guided by the agenda of the ACHPR session.
5) FAJ in further correspondences with the Secretariat ACDHRS did bring it to the attention of the Secretariat that freedom of expression is top in the agenda of the ACHPR session. Hence, should the organisers, who also circulated the brochure be true to the intentions, Freedom of Expression should be included in the agenda of the NGO Forum and not rejected and removed.
The decision of ACDHRS and the rationale in Centre’s response to FAJ’s written request are not convincing and clearly show that the Centre did not make adequate efforts to accommodate the issue of freedom of expression.
FAJ wishes to state categorically that ACDHRS’s decision to exclude freedom of expression from the agenda is unfair, undemocratic and unacceptable, and the Centre’s decision is additional support to and a tool for those who flagrantly violate freedom of expression and freedom of press in Africa.
FAJ regards this decision as complicated and dishonest, it is far removed from the defence of human rights and a major blow to the credibility of the Centre and the NGO Forum.