ACHPR Calls on States to Renew their Commitment to the Fundamental Principle of Press Freedom

Hon. Commissioner Ourveena Geereesha Topsy-Sonoo, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has called on African Union (AU) Member States to renew their commitment to the fundamental principle of press freedom, saying it is of crucial importance, given the key role played by the media in ensuring full respect for the right to freedom of expression, promoting the free flow of information and ideas, assisting individuals in making informed decisions, and facilitating and strengthening democracy.

The Commission, through the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Hon. Commissioner Ourveena Geereesha Topsy-Sonoo, made the call in a statement issued on May 3, 2024, to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day.

The statement added that the significance is underscored in the Preamble to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Declaration).

This year’s World Press Freedom Day explored the theme: “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis” highlighting the importance of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of the current global environmental crisis.

The statement reminded Member States that in its Resolution on Climate Change and Human Rights in Africa, the Commission encouraged States Parties to strengthen regional and international cooperation to achieve strong, committed, and comprehensive climate action. This approach, it said, aims to ensure that human rights in Africa are safeguarded to the greatest extent possible. The Resolution further requested States to adopt and implement special measures of protection for vulnerable groups such as children, women, older persons, persons with disabilities, and indigenous communities, among others.

Noting that climate change is an increasingly important topic for journalists to report on, the statement added that it is crucial to raise awareness about the challenges, disseminate relevant information, and encourage open discussions.

It pointed out that people, especially journalists, should have the freedom to speak about climate change and demand urgent action from governments and businesses, adding that freedom of expression and access to information are essential for everyone to understand the impacts of climate change and contribute to developing effective strategies.

The Special Rapporteur recommended maximum disclosure of climate change information held by public authorities, emphasizing the importance of freedom of expression and access to information. She said it is also important to create an enabling environment for journalists, including protection from harassment and violence, arbitrary arrest, and ensuring the right to privacy and protection of personal information.

In addition to reminding States Parties of their responsibility to ensure the protection of the rights enshrined in Article 9 of the African Charter, the Special Rapporteur also used the opportunity to honour journalists and other media practitioners for their tireless commitment, particularly those who report on issues related to the environment and climate change in Africa.