UNESCO Launches Publication on Freedom of Expression for Judiciary in Africa

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

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has launched a new publication titled “Legal Standards on Freedom of Expression: Toolkit for the Judiciary in Africa” aimed at training judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and other legal professionals from all over the African continent, as well as civil society representatives and the media

The toolkit is meant to provide a theoretical and practical understanding of the key issues concerning the rights to freedom of information, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Africa.

The manual, in six modules, explains the legal basis of these fundamental rights through the lens of both international and regional standards. It also provides in-depth discussion of the main challenges to the application of these rights in practice, including legitimate restrictions to free speech, the issue of impunity for crimes and attacks against journalists and the media, and the newer challenges brought about by the digital age.

The last module of the toolkit focuses on a gender perspective of freedom of expression and provides insights on issues such as gender representation in media professions and gender-specific threats to women journalists.

Moez Chakchouk, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO making a comment on the toolkit said: “Given the importance of freedom of expression as a foundational value of free societies, I believe the toolkit’s material and messages will be of relevance to all concerned stakeholders – that is to say, to all individuals everywhere.”

Highlighting the importance of training judicial members on issues related to freedom of expression, Chief Justice Sylvain Oré, President of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, said: “In democratic societies everywhere there is a strong interdependence between the role of the judiciary and that of the journalists and media. The judiciary’s role is to regulate society and uphold its laws. The role of journalists is to highlight instances of bad governance, corruption, or any other wrongdoing and, as such, to be the citizens’ voice. In short, the judiciary needs journalists, and journalists need the judiciary.”

The toolkit is part of the implementation of the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, adopted by the UN Chief Executives Board in 2012 and further recognized by the UN General Assembly in 2013. The Plan of Action emphasizes the protection of the safety of journalists through the reinforcement of capacities of the judiciary and its knowledge of international and regional legal frame on freedom of expression.
Publication of the toolkit was supported by UNESCO’s multi-donor special account for freedom of expression and safety of journalists, the Open Society Foundations, and the Danish International Development Agency (Danida).

Download the toolkit: Legal Standards on Freedom of Expression for the Judiciary in Africa.