Over 200 journalists across Africa, who gathered in Ouagadogou, Burkina Faso, during the week for a conference on free speech and freedom of expression have urged African leaders to end attacks on journalists and free speech in their respective domains.
In a communique signed at the end of the International Festival of Freedom of Expression and Press (FILEP) organised by the Norbert Zongo Press Centre (CNP-NZ), the journalists also urged some governments to ensure the release of journalists who have been detained for carrying out their legitimate duties.
The theme of this biennial FILEP meeting is “Feathers, microphones and cameras for a free and united Africa”. It held between September 25-28.
At the event were representatives of media organisations, journalists, the African Federation of Houses and Press Centers (FACMP), media rights organisations, human rights defenders, and other media personalities.
The three-event commenced on Wednesday with an official opening by the Burkina Faso Speaker of the House.onference
The conference which involves an international symposium on the theme of the festival with several sub-themes and constituted panels of debates started with an inaugural conference by a professor, Théophile Obenga.
The debates allowed the invited journalists to brainstorm in the challenges facing reporter in their domains and offer solutions to these.
At the end of the week-long event, African journalists urged continental authorities to end attacks on reporters and release those under detention.
They urged the government to out in place deliberate policies aimed at protecting the lives of journalists
“We condemn the incarceration and killing of journalists in nations like Nigeria, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Ghana and Sierra Leone, Conakry and other African nations,” part of the communique read.
“We condemn the arrest and murder of several African journalists. Governments should guarantee the safety and welfare of journalists who are the defenders of democracy.”
It equally condemned the “tightening of policies aimed at crippling press freedom and freedom of expression”. It urged the countries to expunge laws that oppose the freedom of expression.
It urged such nations to also “do more to curb terrorism and insecurity” rather than deploy state resources to oppress reporters.
The journalist called on the French government to ensure the extradition of Blaise Campaore who has been accused of several crimes so that he can stand trial in Burkina Faso.
Blaise Compaoré was the president of Burkina Faso from 1987 to 2014. He was a top associate of President Thomas Sankara during the 1980s, and in October 1987, he led a coup d’état during which Mr Sankara was killed.
The journalists also urged the Ghanaian government to investigate the death of a journalist, Isa Ahmed who was murdered a few days after a member of parliament threatened to ‘deal with him’.
The journalists equally called on Mali to ensure that the mystery behind the disappearance of another reporter, Birama Toure, who has been missing since January 2016, is resolved.
The journalists also want the Burkina Faso government to fast-track the prosecution of those indicted in the murder of Norbert Zongo, who was killed while conducting an investigation into the unresolved death of David Ouédraogo, driver of François Compaoré, the younger brother of President Blaise Compaoré.