African non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have condemned the continued use of laws such as cybercrime legislation and those that restrict freedom of expression and access to information, by member States of the African Union (AU) to restrict the work of journalists on the continent.
They are therefore calling on the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to prevail on States to harmonize, adopt and implement laws that will impact freedom of expression and access to information.
The calls were contained in a Statement delivered by Ms Hannah Forster, Executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), on behalf of participants of the Forum of NGOs at the official opening of the 63rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission which took place at the Coral Beach Hotel in Banjul, The Gambia, from October 24 to November 9, 2018.
The Forum noted that “States continue to use legislation, among other tactics to curb space and restrict the work of journalists, including use of cybercrime laws that restrict Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.”
According to the NGO, “This remains a cause for concern in many African countries, especially when the legal framework for access to information has not been developed in many of our countries.”
The Forum, therefore, called on the African Commission to urge States to harmonize, adopt and implement laws that impact on freedom of expression and access to information.
Saying they aligned the issues discussed at their meeting which preceded the 63rd Ordinary Session of the Commission mainly to the Commission’s existing mechanisms, Mrs. Forster noted that the Forum also considered evolving areas of interest and reviewed over 14 thematic special interest groups, including the situation relating to Freedom of Expression, the Press and Access to Information as well as Human Rights Defenders.
She said these conversations took place with declaration of 2018 as the Year for Preventing and Combatting Corruption by the African Union Commission in mind and that the reports and outcomes emerging from the main panels and the Special Interest Groups meetings formed the core of the developed resolutions and recommendations as a result of in-‐depth review and proposal of strategies for civil society engagement in collaboration with their partners, particularly the African Commission.
According to Mrs. Forster, the resolutions and recommendations developed by NGOs at their Forum were specifically aimed at addressing the rising violations in the various areas of intervention.