HIGH WAY AFRICA CONFERENCE STATEMENT
TO PrepCom 3 Tunis Phase of the World Summit on the Information Society
Reinforcing Journalism in the Information Society
September 14th, 2005 Grahamstown, South Africa
Highway Africa is an annual conference hosted in South Africa, bringing together journalists and new media practitioners from across the African continent. The conference aims to put African media into the centre of debates about ICTs and the Global Information Society. The 2005 conference, in Grahamstown 12-14 September 2005 focused on reinforcing journalism in the Information Society and was attended by three hundred African journalists.
Journalists working in Africa share the same commitment to professional standards and characteristics such as fairness and accuracy with critical thinking and working in the public interest, as journalists globally.
Journalism in Africa, as everywhere, is informed by context and thematic practice that reflects local issues. A desire for accelerated development informed by contextual values and knowledge are two factors that orientate journalism in Africa to being a medium to empower people to make informed decisions.
Believing that democracy is governance by discussion, African journalists embrace ICTs as an extension of media opportunities in the support of good governance and democracy.
WSIS – from statements to action
The conference regrets the limited reference to the media in the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action. It calls upon all stakeholders participating in the WSIS process, primarily the States, to move from the promise of the Geneva Declaration of Principles to its universal implementation, in particular to put into practice their ‘commitment to the principles of freedom of the press and freedom of information, as well as those of the independence, pluralism and diversity of media, which are essential to the Information Society’ (para 55).
African journalists also expect from all WSIS stakeholders, active participation in the implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action, including paragraph 24 related to Media. This involves acting to create conditions conducive to increasing the availability and effective mobilisation of the necessary resources to finance the implementation of this specific part of the Plan of Action. This is of crucial need for the rapid and full integration of African media into the Information Society and the international media landscape.
WSIS – Internet Governance
The Conference strongly regrets that there was no media representative on the Working Group on Internet Governance and calls upon WSIS to ensure that the media is included in all further discussions on Internet Governance.
Re-affirming Existing Statements
The Highway Africa Conference 2005 notes the widespread consensus and implementation of the following statements and highlights particular sentiments expressed in each of them.
The Windhoek Declaration on the Promotion of Free and Pluralistic African Press, 1991 and endorsed by all UNESCO member states in 1995 which promotes the role of the free, independent and pluralistic media in Africa.
The African Charter on Broadcasting adopted Windhoek 2001 and in the Bamako Declaration of WSIS May 28 2002, which calls for access to telephones, email, Internet and other telecommunications systems, including through the promotion of community-controlled information and communications technology centres.
Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa adopted by the African Unions Commission on Human and People’s Rights October 23 2002 Banjul, The Gambia which upholds the key role of the media and other means of communication in ensuring full respect for freedom of expression, in promoting the free flow of information and ideas, in assisting people to make informed decisions and in facilitating and strengthening democracy;
The Commission for Africa’s final report issued on 11 March 2005 in London, United Kingdom, which calls for the setting up of an African media development facility as a way of unlocking resources and expertise for a pluralistic and free media system, including new information and communication technologies (ICTs).
The Marrakech Declaration Adopted in Marrakech on November 24, 2004 which declares that,
Everyone, everywhere, should have the opportunity to participate in the Information Society and to take advantage of its benefits. Information and communication technologies as well as media, must be a fulcrum for equitable access to sustainable development. And,
The Internet and other new media forms should be afforded the same freedom of expression protections as traditional media.
The Conference further notes:
Rhodes University Chair of Media and Democracy
At Highway Africa 2005 a new Rhodes University Chair of Media and Democracy was announced - the
first such academic position in Africa. This initiative recognises the importance of media in the developing