West African Journalists Association (WAJA) is calling on journalists themselves to show union solidarity in struggles against regimes that repress labour rights and journalist freedom.
The statement is part of the Cotonou Declaration issued following WAJA’s meeting in Benin this month. The two-day session, funded by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, focused on “Improving Conditions of Service to Boost Quality Journalism”.
The declaration also states there is “utmost urgency” for journalist member unions to establish self-regulatory monitoring and arbitration of public complaints about the performance of journalists.
Leaders of the region’s journalists’ trade unions say the resolutions aimed at government, media owners and journalists are prompted by “poor and precarious working conditions of journalists, coupled with the lack of social security benefits and insurance while media houses continue to reap enormous profits”.
They call on governments to renew their commitment to social rights of journalists, and to support the legal and political environments that ensure journalist safety.
While the declaration asks governments to “defend workers’ rights on freedom of association, the right to organize and the implementation of labour laws that are in conformity with internationally recognised standards”, it also calls on media employers to respect existing collective agreements, form agreements where none exist, and end gender-based salary discrimination.
WAJA’s full Cotonou Declaration –
WE, the leaders of journalists’ trade unions of the West African Journalists Association (WAJA) meeting in Cotonou, Benin, from 22-23 July, 2014 at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) in a Seminar aimed at improving the working conditions of journalists in West Africa under the theme “Improving Conditions of Service to Boost Quality Journalism”
Concerned about the poor and precarious working conditions of journalists, coupled with the lack of social security benefits and insurance while media houses continue to reap enormous profits, and the lack of respect for labor rights in the media industry in the region;
Deeply troubled by the lack of implementation and enforcement of the ECOWAS/WAJA Framework Collective Agreement since its adoption ten years ago, occasioned by the attending impact on ethical journalism;
Mindful of Conventions 87, 98 and 135 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concerning labour unions and the protection of labour rights, the application of the principles concerning labour organisation and collective bargaining, and the protection of representatives of workers, which have been ratified by almost all the ECOWAS Member States;
Reaffirming that the provisions of the ECOWAS /WAJA Framework Collective Agreement may be included in the legislation of ECOWAS Member States where no Collective Agreement can be negotiated directly;
Recognizing that the fundamental principles of Freedom of Association and the right to Collective Bargaining is a reflection to human dignity ;guaranteeing the ability of workers to act together to defend their economic interest and civil liberties, such as the right to life, security, integrity and personal collective freedoms;
Call on West African Governments through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to:
- Renew their commitment and support for the safety and social rights of journalists as well as the legal and political environments for the operation of the media in the sub-region;
- Press for the implementation of collective agreements by holding media institutions, both public and private responsible to the agreements that they have signed;
- Defend and strengthen the collective bargaining powers of journalists’ unions and/or associations as a means of securing better working and living conditions of journalists as a fundamental basis for social justice and democracy;
- Defend workers’ rights on freedom of association, the right to organize and the implementation of labor laws that are in conformity with internationally recognised standards;
Media Employers in the Region to:
- Respect and implement the collective agreements that they have signed with journalists’ unions to the letter;
- End all form of salary discrimination by enhancing equal work for equal pay irrespective of gender
- To demonstrate their resolve for dignity at the work place by signing collective agreements with journalists’ unions where none exist;
Journalists Unions in the West Africa Sub- Region to:
- Launch a campaign to improve the conditions of service and safety of journalists in the media industry in West Africa;
- Strengthen the advocacy for improving the conditions of journalists by engaging the ECOWAS authority to reaffirm its support for the enforcement and implementation of the ECOWAS/WAJA Collective Bargaining Framework;
- Build and widen practical partnership with the IFJ, FES, and other trade union movements and media rights groups for the training of journalists on Issues of collective bargaining and negotiation skills and the safety of journalists in the sub-region;
- Support the struggles and reinforce solidarity with journalists and their unions against regimes that repress labor rights, freedoms and well-being of journalists;
- Encourage member unions and/or associations to act with the utmost urgency to setup and strengthen effective self-regulatory regimes that will monitor and arbitrate complaints arising from the performance of journalists to safeguard the public interest;
Done in Cotonou, July 23, 2014.