UNESCO Launches MOOC for Judiciary in Africa on Freedom of Expression

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has launched a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in French, entitled “Standards Internationaux et Africains sur la Liberte d’Expression” (International and African Standards on Freedom of Expression) aimed at actors within the judicial sector in Africa.

Launched on January 7, 2019, the five-week training programme is set up by UNESCO in cooperation with the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights and will allow for the reinforcement of the role of judiciary actors, particularly those of judges, prosecutors, and lawyers as well as the role of civil society on international and regional standards on freedom of expression, press freedom, and access to information.

The objective of the course is to strengthen the capacities and the knowledge of judiciary actors in francophone Africa in order to reinforce the regional legal framework on issues of free speech in Africa.

The course, divided into five modules, presents the international standards and the main decisions by national and regional courts in Africa regarding issues of freedom of expression and addresses in particular the challenges of the digital age, the issue of attacks against journalists and the specific threats faced by women journalists.

Each module includes a series of videos dealing with specific aspects of the course, presented by high-level speakers such as Mr Justice Sylvain Oré, the president of the African Court; Mr Justice Jérôme Traoré, former president of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice; and Mr. Abdoulaye Soma, director of CERDIH – the Centre d’études et de Recherches sur le droit international général et les droits de l’homme (Centre for Study and Research on General International Law and on Human Rights) of Burkina Faso.

Course participants also have the possibility to participate in discussion forums where they can exchange with other participants on the issues addressed by the various course modules, thus creating a space for discussion and dialogue between legal and civil society professionals from different African countries.

The programme follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between UNESCO and the African Court on August 14, 2018, through which the two organizations renewed their commitment toward reinforcement of capacities of judicial personnel throughout the African continent with regard to issues of freedom of expression.

The online course is implemented by the Ecole Supérieure de Journalisme de Lille, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the CERDIH.

It is part of the wider framework of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, approved by in 2012 by the UN Chief Executives Board and recognized by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/163 on December 18, 2013.

The project was supported by Switzerland and Norway, through the Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists.