UNESCO Partners ECOWAS Court to Reinforce Freedom of Expression in West Africa

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

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen the protection of freedom of expression, press freedom and safety of journalists in West Africa.

The agreement, according to a statement released in Abuja on July 17, 2019, signed by the Director General of UNESCO Ms. Audrey Azoulay and the President of ECOWAS Court of Justice Mr. Edward Asante, will foster the commitment and cooperation between the two organizations to raise capacities and knowledge of judicial actors on the legal framework governing freedom of expression and press freedom.

“Freedom of expression and its corollaries are at the core of UNESCO’s mandate,” said Ms Azoulay. “Our partnership with the ECOWAS Court signifies a vital cooperation that will allow journalists and individuals in Africa to exercise the right to freedom of expression with greater security,” She noted.

According to the statement, the agreement formalizes the cooperation existing since 2016 between the two organizations and facilitates the development of the joint activities targeting the judiciary and civil society in Africa, such as seminars, training workshops and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) on freedom of expression issues.

“The memorandum is a significant part of cooperation between both parties to protect and reinforce freedom of expression and press freedom in Africa,” declared Justice Asante. “I look forward to my further work with UNESCO and the judges and lawyers in Africa that will benefit from the cooperation between the two organizations,” Asante added.

This agreement with ECOWAS Court follows a similar MoU signed in August 2018 by UNESCO and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which similarly aims at strengthening capacities of the judiciary in Africa on freedom of expression issues. The undertaking provides specialized training of judicial officials and exchanges in areas of freedom of expression, access to public information and safety of journalists.