Release time: 27 June 2006
The Chartered Institute of Journalists, the world’s oldest professional body for professional communicators, has launched an Africa Writers’ Group to aid informed commentary on African issues.
Announcing the launch at the Institute’s London Docklands offices, current CIoJ President, Kenyan-born Sangita Shah said: “This initiative will strengthen the Institute’s presence in Africa, as well as providing a co-ordinated voice for African affairs in the UK. We will bring together experienced writers on Africa, together with travel writers, economists, representatives of NGOs and businessmen, and facilitate the visit to Africa of groups of leading journalists who want to find out more about the continent’s development.”
Immediate Past President Stuart Notholt has been appointed to head up the new group. Notholt has over twenty years experience of business, study and work in all parts of the African continent, and will shortly be leading a party of businessmen to Uganda.
“Many members of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, whether they are writers on travel, current affairs or business matters, have a keen interest in Africa,” he said. “Additionally, the Institute has a long tradition of welcoming members from Africa to its membership. The Africa Writers’ Group will provide a forum for these specialists and experts in their various fields to come together.”
Another important theme, says Notholt, is to support the Institute’s on-going work in the field of press safety. “Parts of Africa are among the most dangerous in the world for journalists, whether local or foreign. With the exception of Iraq, more journalists have been killed in Congo in the past five years than in any other country.” The Institute has also been in the forefront of highlighting the suppression of press freedoms in Zimbabwe. In 2003 the Institute awarded British journalism’s highest award the Chartered Institute of Journalists Gold Medal collectively to the independent journalists of Zimbabwe, as a way of highlighting both their courage and the pressures they are under.
“Africa generally gets a bad press,” said Notholt. “Sometimes, of course, this is warranted, but we want to use the Africa Writers’ Group to present a more balanced and informed opinion.”
Full membership of the CIoJ Africa Writers’ Group is available to all members of the Chartered Institute of Journalists. Informal affiliate membership may be available to others working in the field of African development.