Homegrown solutions needed to end impunity against journalists

African media needs homegrown solutions to challenges facing journalists as a result of harassment and other forms of violence, media experts have said.

Media practitioners comprising practising journalists, unions, media partners, consultants, civil society, embassies and government officials met in Victoria Falls recently to commemorate the international day to end impunity for crimes against journalists.

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is observed every year on 2 November.

The event was also used to mark the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Plan of Action (UNPA) on the safety of journalists.

The UN came up with a plan of action on safety of journalists and the issue of impunity 10 years ago to create a free and safe environment for media practitioners to strengthen peace, democracy and sustainable development worldwide, based on fundamental aspects of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership.

The plan of action mandates cooperation between Governments, media houses, professional associations, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders towards the establishment of global standards upon which regional and national policies can draw inspiration.

Misa Zimbabwe, Unesco, Media Monitors and International Media Support facilitated the event which was also presided over by the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.

Participants resolved that a coalition be made to collaborate on issues of the safety of journalists in the continent.

Unesco regional advisor on freedom of expression and safety of journalists Lydia Gachungi said there should be a coalition that will help effectively domesticate the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in Africa.

“There is a need for homegrown solutions to problems of journalists. This is the first time Africa is meeting to find a solution to its problems in the media. So there is a need for a standardised engendered framework for monitoring and reporting violence against journalists, strengthening national and regional coordinating mechanisms, accelerating support to the safety of journalists, establishing a safe and secure mechanism for journalists,” said Gachungi.

She said such coordination by journalists in the continent will lead to a conducive environment.

“The whole consultation has been actioned and has shown that all partners have agreed on how to take up the recommendation on the UN plan of action and promote media space in Africa. We appreciate support by governments especially the Zimbabwean government after the Information Minister emphasised commitment to safety of journalists,” said Gachungi.

Misa regional coordinator Nqaba Matshazi said the Victoria Falls regional meeting was a follow up on a high-level multi-stakeholder conference on the safety of journalists held in Vienna, Austria a few weeks ago.

He said now was time to cascade down to member states, the issues affecting journalists in Africa.

“The whole idea is to localise these global issues. What’s coming out of here is that we need to build a coalition of like-minded partners who are committed to issues of safety of journalists as we try and work together in a unified way to speak as one voice as African media,” he said.

Speaking earlier, Minister Mutsvangwa said the government was concerned about the safety of journalists and had cautioned political parties whose members were involved in harassing journalists at political rallies and campaigns recently.

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