OIF scribe sues to decriminalise press offences

Ouagadougou- Burkina Faso (PANA) -- The Secretary General of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF), Abdou Diouf said he would ask OIF member countries to decriminalise press- related offences and those of conscience.
Diouf, a former president of Senegal, promised to commit himself "personally" to convincing OIF heads of state and governments to legalise the decriminalisation of offences of press and conscience.
Chairing the closing session of the 36th meeting of the International French-speaking press (UPF) here Sunday, Diouf said he would ensure the speedy decriminalisation of press-related crimes in Francophone countries.
"I will continue to fight with all my might, intervening with the reluctant ones so that they join the movement of democratising and protecting the media in line with the engagements they have made as part of the Francophonie," he promised.
However, he warned against the excesses that the decriminalisation of press-related crimes could give rise to.
"The decriminalisation of press crimes would not serve democracy and human rights if it favours the impunity of non-political crimes committed by irresponsible or incompetent journalists," he said.
Diouf said racism, anti-Semitism and incitement to racial hatred are criminal deeds that must be severely punished as they have nothing to do with information pluralism and a democratic debate respectful of human rights.
"It is obvious that the struggle we are engaged in for the decriminalisation of press crimes must be accompanied by similar efforts to fight impunity," he observed.
He hailed the political and legal progress made in recent years toward the freedom of the press in Africa, but lamented the working conditions that are "so appalling and disgraceful", thus making African journalists "vulnerable to all sorts of temptations and manipulations.
"They lack material means to seek information and the truth in total independence and security," Diouf lamented.
Diouf also denounced the adverse "if not pernicious" effects of the rapid advance of technology "certain techniques of which enable the surveillance and spying of journalists unawares".
Concerning the protection of the media and journalists during armed conflicts, Diouf emphasised the need to strengthen existing provisions to reflect the evolution of conflicts and crises as well as new situations hailing from the context of war.

22 november 2004 14:46:00

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