Fostering freedom of expression in the constitutional process in Libya
As part of UNESCO’s efforts to foster and support freedom of expression and opinion in Libya, a workshop to explore human rights issues within the media sector was organized in Tunis from 4 to 6 June 2015. The training was attended by twenty-five Libyan journalists and four members of Libya’s Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA); it was undertaken jointly with the NGO Journalists for Human Rights and supported by the Government of Canada.
During the vibrant discussions over the three days, both journalists and CDA members agreed that freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information are fundamental human rights that must be included in the Constitution and protected by the country’s executive, legislative and judicial branches.
Salma Alsha’ab, a journalist, stated: “We are committed to working closely with CDA to ensure that basic human rights are respected by and included in the Constitution. We shall not rely only on the international community, the change must come from within’’. Acknowledging the media’s key role in the democratic process, the Head of the Committee for Rights and Freedoms, Dr Albadri Shareef, stressed that ‘’free and independent media plays an important role in highlighting and safeguarding human rights because when these are protected, governments become more accountable, which paves the way for a better life for the people”.
In his closing remarks, UNESCO’s representative to Libya, Michael Croft, noted that “participants now have a practical understanding of how human rights concepts can be integrated into their reporting; this is extremely important given the significant obstacles they face in trying to expose the truth. Also, media professionals and CDA members understand each other much better, having had the opportunity to have a sustained and open dialogue. This understanding and mutual respect is crucial for the work on the Constitution to move forward.”
The workshop concluded with a joint statement in which the journalists present announced their intention to start collecting signatures for a petition to include a Supreme Council for Media in the Constitution. They also presented CDA members with a list of recommendations pertaining to the Rights and Freedoms Chapter of the Constitution.
This activity is implemented by the UNESCO Tripoli Project Office in partnership with Canada’s Embassy to Libya, and the Organization’s contribution has been made possible through the generous support of the Government of Finland. It is part of the Organization’s efforts to reinforce the capacity of Libyan media to contribute to reconciliation and promote conflict-sensitive reporting.
For more information please contact:
- Raja’a El Abasi, Program Officer, UNESCO