Responding to the appointment of Commissioner Jamesina Essie L. King to the mandate of Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Fatou Jagne Senghore, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 West Africa said:
“ARTICLE 19 welcomes the appointment of Commissioner King and we are committed to work with her to ensure the realisation of free speech and access to information across the continent.”
“We are grateful for the dedication the outgoing Special Rapporteur Lawrence Murugu Mute gave to the mandate and in particular for the revision of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.”
The rights to freedom of expression and access to information are cornerstones of democracy and key to ensuring the enjoyment of other human rights. The right to free speech on important issues in the society is essential in bringing out change. People need access to information to enable them to hold those in power accountable.
“The Commissioner will have to deal with challenging circumstances considering the shrinking civic space in Africa. Some governments are inventing new ways to control the media including through monopoly in ownership of media and soft censorship. We also continue to witness violence against journalists and media practitioners, which has in some cases been fatal and perpetrated with impunity”, said Fatou Jagne Senghore.
A number of countries are yet to enact access to information laws. In most countries that have enacted such laws, the right continues to be limited in other laws including Official Secrets laws. The internet has transformed freedom of expression as it provides various avenues for people to express themselves. However, a number of governments have shut down internet; some for short periods while others for much longer. Other challenges include mass surveillance and data protection violations either due to the lack of data protection laws or the failure to implement them.
ARTICLE 19 will continue working to defend and promote freedom of expression and access to information and supporting the work of the mandate towards this end, especially in light of these challenges. ARTICLE 19 was honoured to continue offer expertise to the mandate in one of the important milestones of the mandate to revise the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, 2002 to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, 2019.