World Media personalities among them editors and publishers of the world renowned media houses at the general assembly of the International Press Institute (IPI) have called on governments of the world to respect journalists and allow them to express themselves freely.
IPI, a global network of editors, media executives and journalists held its national congress in Cape Town, South Africa and singled out governments of Swaziland, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa for threatening free expression and media freedom. The general assembly led by IPI executive director Alison Bethel McKenzie adopted resolutions which called on among others the Swaziland government to release unconditionally the editor of The Nation, Bhekitemba Makhubu, and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, who have been arrested, released and re-arrested by a succession of judges.
The Ethiopian government was called on to stop arresting journalists under anti-terrorism laws and to review its anti-terror statutes to protect freedom of the press; *The Egyptian government to end arrests of journalists under anti-terrorism laws; and South Africa's president Jacob Zuma to submit a new secrecy law for court review. The assembly also called on the South African government to explain why it failed to give the Eastern European and Russian IPI members visas to enable them to attend the World Congress.
The journalists argued that the use of anti-terrorism laws against journalists had "fuelled a sense of fear among media workers, both foreign and domestic." At least six journalists have been jailed under the 2009 anti-terror law, "some of whose health is deteriorating and do not have access to lawyers, friends and relatives." The assembly called for media laws to be reviewed in order to comply with the country’s new constitution and on parliament to use its authority to investigate the use of anti-terrorism laws against journalists.
In her opening remarks Alison Bethel McKenzie recognised the significance of the 20th anniversary of the end of Apartheid, and also acknowledged the significant anniversaries of the Rwanda genocide and the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Although the congress and 63rd annual general assembly are being held in Cape Town the issues discuss had a global impact, she added.
The congress tackled the 'new' South Africa and its media 20 years after apartheid; anti-terror and other national security laws and their impact on press freedom; and many other important and relevant topics, the Chinese government's role in the developing world, when war on terror puts journalists behind bars, the images of faith, clash of perceptions- when people of faith see their images on the media.
The congress ended on a great note with some of the influential media practitioners being honored by IPI and named World Press Freedom Heroes in recognition of their courage and resilience in fighting for press freedom. There are currently 66 in all, the first 50 of were named and honored in 2000.
At this congress IPI named Iranian journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin as its World Press Freedom Hero. He has been jailed numerous times for his criticism of government policies. Shamsolvaezin is the former editor and in some cases founder of four reformist dailies, Kayhan, Jame'eh (laterTous), Neshat, and Asr-e Azadegan, which were all shut down by Iran's authorities.