African Parliamentary Press Network is formed as Pan African Parliament Deepens Engagement with Media - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Friday, November 27, 2020

African Parliamentary Press Network is formed as Pan African Parliament Deepens Engagement with Media

The African Parliamentary Press Network (APPN), an Africa wide parliamentary media group has been formed to monitor and provide enhanced visibility to the Pan-African Parliament and individual national Parliaments.

The group which is made up of journalists, media practitioners and media centered PMOs across the continent of Africa who cover the workings of parliaments, was put together after a media session on working effectively with the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) organized under the auspices of the PAP CSO forum with support from the Parliamentary Network Africa (PNAfrica), Mzalendo Trust, Centre for Human Rights (CHR) and the Pan African Parliament (PAP), to help the continental legislative body achieve its mandate.

The forum which was held on Friday, 13th November 2020, had as part of its objectives, the sensitization of media personnel on the workings of the Pan African Parliament; commitment by the media personnel to work together and engage with the PAP as well as their national Parliaments and Parliamentary Monitoring Organizations-PMOs; and also create a common platform to facilitate all these interactions.

The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) was set up to ensure the full participation of African peoples in the economic development and integration of the continent. It was also intended as a platform for people from all African states to be involved in discussions and decision making on the problems and challenges facing the continent.

However, a greater number of the people on the continent are yet to fully understand the mandate of the continental legislative body which presently, only has consultative, advisory and budgetary oversight powers within the AU.

It was strongly advocated and emphasized at the forum for the institutional involvement of the media in the monitoring of the workings of the PAP and the dissemination of information from the continental body to the people.

“I am fully convinced that for the Pan-African Parliament to achieve its mandate, it should actively engage the civil society, citizens, the media and the community-based organizations,” said Ms. Bonolo Makgale, Programme Manager for the Center for Human Rights (CHR), in her welcoming Remarks at the forum.

Ms. Bonolo further stated that the CHR and African PMOs in general aim to open up the space for the media to participate in reporting the engagements and workings of the Pan-African Parliament and its committees and suggested that the Pan-African Union and AU have to ensure that the work they do is people-centered.

The Executive Director of PNAfrica, Sammy Obeng, pointed out that Journalists who report on Parliament are actually engaged in Parliamentary Monitoring and that it’s right if one says unambiguously that the media indeed has a role to play in open parliaments. He explained that opening up Parliament has many benefits including effective outcomes on the key policy areas that the Parliament deals with. He acknowledged that when Parliaments are open, it then helps to improve and build trust in the relationship with its citizens.

Sammy Obeng noted that the PAP represents everyone on the continent of Africa and just like any Parliament, the role of oversight, legislation and representation cannot be overemphasized. He however bemoaned the fact that members of the PAP have not effectively played their dual roles, as members of PAP and primarily being members of Parliament in their respective countries.

He observed that often representatives of various countries who attend Pan-African Parliament meetings come back and basically do nothing to aggressively promote things discussed at the PAP and therefore re-emphasized the need for the relationship between the media and the PAP and its members to be enhanced for it to deliver information on work they have done.

He recommended that the communication department in PAP should make a conscious effort in working with the media across the continent especially on the issue of press passes and free movement within Parliament; spaces should be allocated for journalists and media outlets so they can have the facilities to write and produce stories on activities happening in Parliament.

PAP Media Officer, Mr Jeffrey Onganga in his presentation, expounded the mandate of the Pan African Parliament and potential areas of media engagement. While highlighting the entry points for the media, he noted that one has to consider the differences in conveying messages and the plurality of languages since the Media have to ensure that whatever is covered is in French, English, Portuguese, Arabic and Swahili.

Mr. Jeffery Onganga further noted that the PAP Media Office has realized that some of the journalists who cover the PAP proceedings still don't exactly understand the mandate of the Pan African Parliament thus the need to work with a more dedicated group of journalists such as the APPN to gain a better understanding of PAP’s mandate.

He stated that PAP aims to explore media partnerships on how media houses are working in ensuring that they have programmes that focus on the Pan-African Parliament. He added that PAP will ensure that it has joint activities with the media houses so as to give people clarity on its key mandate. He revealed that PAP aims at awarding media from different parts of the continent and identify journalists who work tirelessly in telling the African story.

Mr. Onganga concluded his presentation by stressing that the ratification of the Malabo Protocol is very important for the work of PAP and in the meantime, PAP, PMOs and media should not ignore the power that comes with members of Parliament from the continent under one platform.

Deputy Clerk-Pan-African Parliament, Ms. Charlotte Marck, while delivering remarks on behalf of the Clerk of the PAP stated that the PAP protocol is intended to extend the powers of the PAP into a fully-fledged legislative programme and that PAP expects the media to hold the Pan-African Parliament to account and scrutinize the institution and its activities. She noted that the Pan African Parliament was not well-known among Africans and it’s for this reason that the PAP set out to grow its visibility through outreach programmes.

The Programmes Manager of PNA, Mr. Gilbert Borketey Boyefio, who was in charge of the establishment of the APPN, noted in his statement that the work ahead of the group is not just about making sure the PAP becomes visible or that the Malabo protocol gets ratified but also to ensure that even the people in the hinterland have access to Parliamentary information.

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