IPC, MRA, Others Push for safety of Journalists at African Commission

    …Rights Organisations Raise Alarm Over Shrinking Spaces in African Countries The International Press Centre (IPC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) Institute of Media and Society and Association for Development and Social Integration are among the African Freedom of Exchange (AFEX) members participating in the African Commission conference in Banjul aimed at creating an African Union Working

    …Rights Organisations Raise Alarm Over Shrinking Spaces in African Countries
    The International Press Centre (IPC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) Institute of Media and Society and Association for Development and Social Integration are among the African Freedom of Exchange (AFEX) members participating in the African Commission conference in Banjul aimed at creating an African Union Working Group on Safety of Journalists.

    The event is the 65th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights holding at Kairaba Beach Hotel, Banjul,Gambia. It is an annual event that brings state actors face to face with civil Society Group.

    The Media Rights Agenda the is facilitating a side event that is being attended by Banjul Commissioners, the African Union and Africa safety of Journalists stakeholders. It is expected that that this Working Group will lead to the adoption of “Standing Agenda on Safety of Journalists in Africa within the framework of the AU Peace and Security Council

    According to Mr. Arogundade, the Executive Director of the International Press Centre, who is one of the participants, some other international and regional bodies including UNESCO and Media Foundation for West Africa are also participating in the meeting which where the Nigerian organisations are highlighting the plight of the Nigerian journalist and the deteriorating press freedom situation in Nigeria as the country’s civic space continues to shrink.

    “ Attention of the meeting is being drawn to the plight of journalist like Agba Jalingo and Jones Abiri, among others who have been badly treated by the Nigerian government”, Mr. Arogundade said

    Meanwhile, two international Rights Organisations, the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights have raised an alarm at the continued shrinking of civic spaces in many African countries noting that many countries now seek ways to limit the rights to freedom of assembly, association, expression and access to information guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
    In a joint statement released at the ongoing 65th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights holding in Banjul Gambia, the organizations observed a “growing trend in the use of cyber-security laws to unduly limit freedom of expression and access to information, as guaranteed under the African Charter.
    “In Nigeria, several journalists and civil society activists have been arrested under the Cyber Crimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015, for statements that were well within their rights to freedom of expression. Recently, journalist and political activist, Omoyele Sowore was charged with making statements in media interviews that were insulting to the President of Nigeria. Journalist, Jones Abiri, has been in detention for periods of over two years, and charged under the Cyber Crimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act because of a news report he published in the “Weekly Source” newspaper.
    “Similar cyber-crimes laws exist, and have been used to silence journalists and activists in Egypt, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. Several States have also used internet shut-downs to silence citizens’ voices and quell dissent.
    “During the last presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the internet was cut while voters were waiting for election results. The government justified the internet cuts by saying the shutdown was necessary to curb “rumor mongering” among citizens. This was the second time the country’s government decided to block the internet. In January 2018, the state cut the internet in anticipation of planned protests where citizens were requesting President Kabila to vacate his position.
    The government of Chad has shut down access to all social media since March 2018. This is the second time the government will resort to this tactic. In 2016, the government shut down access to the internet for eight months. On January 15, 2019 the government of Zimbabwe shutdown social media including, WhatsApp, and eventually completely shut-down internet access in response to growing protests against the rise in fuel prices.
    Internet shutdowns have also been employed by governments in Togo, Cameroon, Benin, Gabonand Sudan.
    Public Order laws are being used to curtail the rights of persons to freedom of assembly in States such as The Gambia and Sierra Leone among others. These laws contain provisions that necessitate the grant of permission by State agents before protests or demonstrations can take place.
    A four-point poser has therefore been raised for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to remedy the deteriorating situation. These are:
    1. Respond to cases of shrinking civic space in Africa, wherever and whenever they happen;
    2. Call on African States to respect and protect the rights to expression, access to information, assembly and association for everyone under their jurisdictions.
    3. Call on African States to bring their Cyber-crime and Public Order laws in compliance with the provisions of articles 9 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
    4. Continue to popularize the Commission’s Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and the Commission’s Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections in Africa.

    Ayo Aluko-Olokun
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