AU, EU Pledge to Promote and Protect Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age


The African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) have made a joint commitment to promote and protect freedom of expression and the right of access to information in the digital age. They also reiterated their commitment to jointly support a continental conference on Freedom of Expression in Africa in 2017.

These and other commitments, recommendations and commendations were contained in a communiqué issues at the end of the 12th AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue which took place in Brussels, Belgium on January 10, 2017. The Dialogue was led by Dr Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, and Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights.

Welcoming the ACHPR 2016 Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet the two continental unions emphasised that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.

The Dialogue also discussed the shrinking space for civil society organizations and human rights defenders in Africa adding that they are looking forward to ACHPR adopting the Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa by the and agreed to organize a seminar on the implementation on these guidelines once adopted.

The AU and the EU commended efforts of Civil Society Steering Committees in organizing the 6th AU-EU Civil Society Seminar on Democratic Governance and Human Rights on 9 January 2017 in Brussels and which focused on counter-terrorism and human rights.

They welcomed and took note of the recommendations, including an initiative on human rights and counter-terrorism in Africa and the adoption of the Mandate and Terms of Reference of the Steering Committee.

Reaffirming the need for greater space for civil society within this partnership in order to fulfill their obligations without undue interference, they called on the civil society to inclusively and meaningfully contribute to the implementation of activities and programmes of the AU-EU Partnership on Democratic Governance and Human Rights, including on the preparation of the Africa-EU Summit.

The two institutions welcomed the Declaration of the Human and Peoples’ Decade in Africa and the launch of the drafting of the African Human Rights Action and Implementation Plan 2017–26. They agreed that it is a unique opportunity for concrete and tangible improvements in the protection and promotion of fundamental rights. The EU agreed to support the AU with its plan to ensure the ratification and implementation of international and continental human rights instruments at the national level.

The two institutions also welcomed the High-Level Dialogue on Democratic Governance focusing on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Africa, which took place in November 2016 in Arusha, Tanzania. They also commended the exchange of experiences during the High Level Meeting of Chief (Election) Observers organised by the AU in the margins of the Declaration of Principles on International Election Observation (DOP) meeting in Johannesburg in October 2016 and agreed on the importance of regularly repeating the event.

Reiterating their commitment to fighting impunity of all sorts and to holding perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses accountable, they made obligations to promoting justice at all levels while placing special emphasis on the importance of reinforcing national judiciaries.

The AU reaffirmed its commitment to the principle of complementarity of the justice system from the national, regional, continental levels with the apex continental body being the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Participants were drawn from various African and European inter-governmental organisations and civil society leaders.