UNESCO launched a new publication titled “Legal Standards on Freedom of Expression: Toolkit for the Judiciary in Africa”. This toolkit provides a theoretical and practical understanding of the key issues concerning the rights to freedom of information, freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
The publication is aiming to train judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and other legal professionals from all over the African continent, but also civil society representatives and media. This six-module manual explains the legal basis of these fundamental rights through the lens of both international and regional standards. It also provides an in-depth discussion of the main challenges to their application in practice, such as legitimate restrictions to free speech, the issue of impunity for crimes and attacks against journalists and the media, and the newer challenges brought forth by the digital age. The final module of the toolkit focuses on a gendered perspective of freedom of expression, providing insights on issues such as a gender representation in media professions and gender-specific threats to women journalists.
“Given the importance of freedom of expression as a foundational value of free societies, I believe the toolkit’s material and messages will be of relevance to all concerned stakeholders – that is to say, to all individuals everywhere,” stated the Assistant Director-General of UNESCO Moez Chakchouk.
The President of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, Chief Justice Sylvain Oré, highlighted the importance of training judicial members on issues related to freedom of expression: “In democratic societies everywhere there is a strong interdependence between the role of the judiciary and that of the journalists and media. The judiciary’s role is to regulate the society and uphold its laws. The role of journalists is to highlight instances of bad governance, corruption, or any other wrongdoing and, as such, to be the citizens’ voice. In short, the judiciary needs journalists, and journalists need the judiciary.”
This toolkit is part of the implementation of the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, adopted by the UN Chief Executives Board in 2012 and further recognized by the UN General Assembly in 2013. The Plan of Action emphasizes protection of safety of journalists through the reinforcement of capacities of the judiciary and its knowledge of international and regional legal frame on freedom of expression.
The publication of this toolkit has been supported by UNESCO’s multi-donor special account for freedom of expression and safety of journalists, the Open Society Foundations, and the Danish International Development Agency (Danida).