Pan African Conference to Review State of Freedom of Expression Access to Information in Africa

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A pan-African conference to review the state of freedom of expression and access to information in Africa and the achievements made in implementing African Union instruments concerning freedom of expression and access to information in Africa is scheduled to hold on March 25 -26, 2017 at Speke Resort, Munyonyo, Kampala in Uganda. It is being organised by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) in collaboration with the Government of Uganda, African Union and the European Union.

The Conference will also seek to take stock of the progress made on the adoption and implementation of access to information laws in Africa; commemorate the achievements made by freedom of expression community in Africa; critically engage with the developments in the field of protection and enjoyment of freedom of expression and access to information; identify shortcomings of the protection mechanisms available to freedom of expression defenders in Africa; enhance collaboration between the African Union’s organs and civil society with a view to increasing protection of freedom of expression and access to information; and identify strategies aimed at creating an enabling environment for freedom of expression and access to information in Africa.

Participants at the Conference will be drawn from the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, inter-governmental organisations, and representatives from the freedom of expression advocacy community in Africa, African journalists’ organisations, human rights defenders, trade unions and women rights activists, and government agencies from across Africa.

The AU-EU Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Steering Committee on Democratic Governance and Human Rights at its fifth seminar in November 2015, prior to the formal AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue, deliberated on Freedom of Expression as basic human rights and explored means to promote them within AU-EU partnership.

The seminar emphasised that independent civil society is a key guarantor of freedom of expression and that there was a need to organise an African conference on freedom of expression and access to information. Both AU and EU institutions agreed to support this initiative and to provide the civil society all the support it needed to hold the freedom of expression conference.

It is against this background that the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, in collaboration with the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union (ECOSOCC) and the African Union Commission (AUC) – Department of Political Affairs (DPA) in conjunction with AU Civil Society Steering Committee on AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue resolved to organize a Pan-African Conference on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in order to evaluate the state of freedom of expression and access to information in Africa.

The delegates will evaluate the applicability of the various mechanisms and instruments currently offered by the African Union and regional economic communities in order to identify their current strengths and weaknesses and to find possible measures to strengthen them. Being first of its kind to be organized in Africa and for Africa, the conference will stress the need for continued and increased efforts by all stakeholders to ensure the protection and enjoyment of fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of information.

The conference is coming 25 years after Windhoek Declaration on Independent and Pluralistic African Press, which spearheaded development and protection of free press on the continent. In this regard the state of media freedom of the continent will be examined and impediments facing the media will be extensively discussed.

The issue of the ensuring a safe and enabling environment for journalists will be a key component, particularly safety of journalists and tackling the problem of impunity of crimes committed against journalists will be elaborated. Impunity and accountability will be strongly deliberated in the conference.

The enactment of access to information laws in line with Model Law on Access to Information of the African Commission will also be explored and ways to implement this model law will be extensively discussed.

At the end of the Conference, it is expected that the state of freedom of expression and access to information in Africa would be reviewed; African Union instruments and mechanisms on freedom of expression and freedom of information extensively discussed; a Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa adopted; and an action plan on implementing African Union instruments on freedom of expression and access to information also adopted.

The conference is organized under the auspices of African Union and European Union. In other words, outcome recommendations will inform recommendations to the two Unions as well as respective national governments.