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AFRICAN UNION URGED TO SUPPORT FREE PRESS

The fledgling Southern Africa Journalists Association (SAJA) is calling on the African Union to play an active role in promoting press freedom throughout the continent, saying it is ready to work with and support the newly-formed organisation on this front, reports the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

SAJA recently held its first annual general meeting in Mbabane, Swaziland, bringing together journalist groups from 14 southern African countries. Supported by IFJ, it was formed in December 2001 with the aim of improving networking among press freedom advocates and journalist unions in the region.

At the general meeting, SAJA welcomed the launch of the African Union (formerly the Organisation of African Unity, OAU) and stressed the need for pluralist, professional and independent media in Africa. "In many countries, journalists work under intolerable conditions because of disregard of their professional, social and trade union rights," declared the association.

Following the meeting, SAJA plans to draw up proposals for working with the African Union and other regional bodies to promote press freedom, media pluralism and journalistic independence, including the New Africa Programme for Development (NEPAD) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

For more information, contact IFJ by e-mail:
[email protected].

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed concern that the African Union's constitution does not protect press freedom. In contrast to the former OAU constitution, which guaranteed press freedom and free expression, the language of the African Union's constitution contains no such guarantees, CPJ says.

Read CPJ's protest letter for more details:
www.cpj.org.

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