UNESCO and Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs enter collaboration to strengthen the role of judicial actors in Africa on freedom of expression


The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNESCO signed an agreement on 28 October 2020, supporting the Organization’s work to foster freedom of expression, public access to information and safety of journalists in Africa, for a period of 24 months.

This partnership will reinforce UNESCO’s action on the continent to build capacities of judicial actors, including judges, prosecutors, lawyers and legal officers, on freedom of expression.

The project notably aims to raise judicial actors’ awareness and knowledge of international standards and regional jurisprudence on freedom of expression, access to information, digital challenges related to the Internet and safety of journalists. Training activities and exchanges between judicial actors will be organized in English, French and Portuguese, and implemented with national and regional partners, such as regional human rights courts, to ensure stronger ownership and sustainability.

The role of the judiciary in protecting freedom of expression is essential to guarantee this fundamental right. Judges and other judicial operators are central to ensure an environment where the press can act freely and independently and in which access to information is guaranteed. Their role is also essential to protect the safety of journalists and fight impunity for attacks against media professionals.

Xing Qu, UNESCO Deputy Director-General

The project will be carried out through on-the-ground trainings, trainings of trainers’ workshops, and an updated Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for actors of the judiciary and civil society representatives in Africa to maximize the impact and reach of the programme.

The project envisions three crucial results:

  1. awareness raised of judges and members of the judiciary on freedom of expression and safety of journalists’ standards at regional levels,
  2. capacities reinforced of judicial training institutes on the above themes, and
  3. awareness raised on South-South and North-South experiences in the field of freedom of expression between judges and members of the judiciary from various regions, including regarding the achievement of Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

UNESCO is the specialized UN agency with a mandate to promote freedom of expression and its corollary, press freedom. The Judges initiative was first launched in 2013 to reinforce the knowledge and expertise of actors of the judiciary through series of MOOCs, workshops and seminars on issues related to freedom of expression. Since then, more than 17,000 judicial actors and representatives of civil society have been trained on freedom of expression, access to information and safety of journalists in Latin America, Africa and the Arab region.

The project, which is aligned with UNESCO’s Global Priority Africa, will be implemented in the framework of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which aims to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers.

This news is available in Japanese on this link.