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2004-2005 Archived Historical Events

New Africa-wide Journalist Organization Founded in Douala

Douala, Cameroon --  October 6, 2005 

After three days of a five day conference in Douala, Cameroon, media representatives from 23 African countries have decided to form a continent-wide organization devoted to strengthening their profession. The conference entitled “The Media in Emerging Democracies: the international conference of African journalists” sought to identify obstacles confronting the exercise of free media in Africa and ways of overcoming them. The Douala conference was organized by the American Embassy in Yaounde.

At the outset of the conference, participants formed three groups: the first to consider the possibilities of linking African journalists from many countries, the second to define professional guidelines, and the third to examine working conditions and to define the mission of journalists given the needs and realities of Africa.

Based upon the reports of those groups, the 60 participating journalists created a new African organization, the Society for the Development of Media in Africa (Société pour le Développement des Médias Africains, SDMA). Participants also made clear that their new organization will be open to media representatives from all over the continent not present in Douala.

The conference also urged that action be taken to strengthen the professional qualifications of African journalists, and to protect them in carrying out their mission. Especially important, they decided, is to improve the training of journalists in Africa. They also took up the question of professional ethics and standards, and decided to adopt an overarching framework that defines the rules that guide media practitioners in Africa.

At the conclusion of their deliberations, the participants elected a temporary governing body, the term of office will be one year. The governing body will be responsible for implementing the decisions adopted at the conference and preparing for a general assembly of their organization which will have the responsibility of drawing up more permanent statutes for The Society for the Development of Media in Africa, SDMA.

Elected as president of the temporary body was Jérémie Bouéima SIGUE, Director of the Burkina Faso newspaper, Le Pays, and founder of the Observatoire National de la Presse du Burkina Faso. Conference participants also selected four vice-presidents representing Central, West, East and Southern Africa. They are Pierre Debato II of Central African Republic, Makan Kone of Mali, Kamali Fulgence of Rwanda and Kabeya Pindi Pasi of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They also created a fifth vice-presidency for North Africa, a position yet to be filled. A variety of other administrative positions were also created, for which 11 other officers were selected.

The final two days of the conference began with a telephone dialogue with Mogens Schmidt of UNESCO in Paris. The UNESCO representative responsible for the development of media gave a strong endorsement to the new organization and its goals. The final sessions of the conference continue with a series of discussions on the training of trainers in the techniques and methods of modern journalism. Among the subjects are investigative reporting, election coverage and specialized reporting in such subjects as the economy and the environment.

Before concluding their deliberations, the new organization launched its website to carry news of its future developments.

In a press conference held on October 5th, the Society’s President Jérémie Sigue called on members of the new organization to return home committed to advancing the goals defined by the Douala conference, goals he was confident would strengthen the media and press freedom in Africa.

In addition to Cameroon, participants have come from Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome, Senegal, and Togo. Also participating are representatives from France and the United States.

The conference concluded with a vote of thanks to the United States Department of State for having made possible the Douala conference, and to the host government for allowing it to take place in Cameroon.