PARIS – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has launched a new publication titled “Legal Standards on Freedom of Expression: Toolkit for the Judiciary in Africa”, expected to simplify the rights to freedom of information, freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
The publication aims to train African judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and other legal professionals, civil society representatives and the media.
The six-module manual explains the legal basis of these fundamental rights through the lens of both international and regional standards and provides an in-depth discussion of the main challenges to their application in practice, such as legitimate restrictions to free speech, impunity for crimes and attacks against journalists and the media, and the newer challenges brought forth by the digital age.
The final module of the toolkit focuses on a gendered perspective of freedom of expression, providing insights on issues such as a gender representation in media professions and gender-specific threats to women journalists.
“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,” said UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General, Moez Chakchouk.
The President of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, Chief Justice Sylvain Oré, said it was imperative for judicial members to get proper training on issues related to freedom of expression.
“In democratic societies everywhere there is a strong interdependence between the role of the judiciary and that of the journalists and media,” said Chief Justice Ore. “The judiciary’s role is to regulate the 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 UNESCO 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 protection of safety of journalists through the reinforcement of capacities of the judiciary and its knowledge of international and regional legal frame on freedom of expression.