MFWA Calls for Protection of Journalists Working in Online Spaces

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has called on governments in Africa to protect journalists who work online alongside those who work offline within the broader effort to promote the safety of journalists.

The MFWA made the call during the Interregional Forum on Strengthening National Monitoring and Reporting Mechanisms on Safety of Journalists in Africa which was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on November 26-27, 2018.

“Online journalism has become an important component of the media industry with peculiar challenges regarding the safety and security of the journalists working in that space. These challenges include trolling, hacking of accounts and stalking of journalists,” Muheeb Saeed, MFWA’s Programme Officer for Freedom of Expression, observed.

“It is important that mechanisms for the protection of journalists take into account the technical nature of the threats online so as to incorporate cyber security expertise to help investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists online,” Saeed added.

The National Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism for the Safety of Journalists is a multi-stakeholder approach to the prevention and punishment of attacks on journalists, and for their protection in the face of threats. It involves the development and implementation of nationally-owned protection mechanisms for preventing and penalising attacks against journalists.

Another key function of the Mechanism is the monitoring and reporting of violations in line with the UN Plan of Action for the safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

Held under the aegis of UNESCO, the Forum was attended by delegates from about 40 countries in Africa drawn from regulatory bodies, security services, civil society organisations and senior government officials.

The Forum reviewed the progress made by the various African countries since the adoption of the Addis Ababa Resolution on the Creation of an AU Working group on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity on November 15, 2017.

The MFWA underlined the need to adopt the right approach to tackling the peculiar emerging threats to online journalists and bloggers, particularly, women.

The Forum also agreed to establish an African framework for monitoring attacks against journalists and issuing an annual Africa Press Freedom Index based on monitoring reports submitted by the National Mechanisms of the various countries. This, they agreed, would help eliminate reservations about press freedom reports issued by external organisations.

The MFWA delegation also included Vivian Affoah, Senior Programme Officer for Freedom of Expression, and Felicia Fauzia Anthonio, Programme Associate in Charge of the Africa Freedom of expression Exchange (AFEX).

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