The role of African governments in the implementation of the Revised Declaration on freedom of expression online in AfricaPosted: 24 November, 2021
Authors: Imani Henrick, Bitebo Gogo, Ogah Peter Ejegwoya & Ayowole Olotupa-Adetona
The rights to freedom of expression, access to information and opinion are three distinct yet interconnected rights. The right to freedom of expression includes overt or covert communication through any medium including the Internet while access to information is being able to get information through any means. Both rights can be limited under international human rights standards. However, the right to opinion which is broader than both rights cannot be limited under international human rights standards.
This article identifies the role of African governments in implementing freedom of expression online. In doing so, it focuses on the provisions of the recent Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (Revised Declaration) 2019.
Author: Rehim Baharu Elala
Intern, Ethiopian Community Development Council
LGBT data in Ethiopia
Ethiopia revised its Criminal Code in 2004 and criminalised homosexual or indecent acts both between men and women, with those convicted facing terms of imprisonment. Same-sex acts will be punished with imprisonment of not less than a year, or in ‘grave’ cases, rigorous imprisonment of up to 15 years. The justifications for criminalising the acts are mostly associated with the strict societal norms and religion.
There is no study or research conducted to know the exact number of LGBTQ people in Ethiopia. I interviewed two members of the LGBTQ in Ethiopia who are working in legal and health professions when I was writing a Seminar Paper for my LGBTQ Health Law and Policy class. My informants told me that the estimate data shows that there are around 50,000-60,000 people who identify themselves as LGBTQ in the capital Addis Ababa alone. They also stated that the major source of the anti-gay sentiment originates from the religious authorities. This is because homosexuals are always portrayed in a dangerous manner by the religious institutions as child abusers and destroyers of Ethiopian values. An Ethiopian law professor states the influence of religious groups in the following words:
“There is complete silence around LGBT experiences because there is no forum for stories about the violence meted out by the state and family members on a day-to-day basis… My biggest fear is that these religious organisations are monopolising the conversation and perpetuating a fear that is becoming impossible to combat.”
Author: Tomiwa Ilori
HRDA Alumni Coordinator/Researcher: Democracy, Transparency and Digital Rights Unit, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Due to increasing underdevelopment in sub-Saharan Africa, many governments have looked towards several means to make up for deficits in domestic fiscal planning. One of the means through which governments have financed their budgets is by levying higher taxes on companies and individuals to be able to raise revenue.
While there may be legitimate reasons for states to levy taxes, in order for a tax system to be regarded as good and effective it needs to comply with at least five basic conditions: ensure a beneficial system; transparent in collection and use; less bureaucratic and equitable – every person should pay a fair amount of taxes not injurious to their well-being. While Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) potentially impact the global economy, not all economies have thrived equally. In most sub-Saharan African countries, the impacts of ICTs have been least felt which damages the prospects of democratic development in the region. Read the rest of this entry »
Author: Nimrod Muhumuza
Lawyer and LLD candidate, Dullah Omar Institute, University of Western Cape
Laws prohibiting blasphemy are astonishingly widespread worldwide with many countries criminalising conduct deemed blasphemous with disparate punishments ranging from prison sentences to lashings or the death penalty. A comprehensive report prepared by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom found that 71 countries prohibit views deemed blasphemous. These laws have dire consequences for those who find themselves on their wrong side as the most recent and much publicised case of Asia Bibi in Pakistan has demonstrated.
South of the Sahara, the report found that only four countries criminalise blasphemy. Uganda did not make that list. This is despite the provisions of Chapter III, sections 118-122 of the Penal Code Act. Sections 118-121 proscribe conduct that involves the destruction or damage or defilement of any place of worship with the intent of insulting the religion; disturbing religious assemblies, trespassing on burial places hindering burial of a dead body. The utility and legality of these provisions is not inherently the protection of religions and religious ideas and their constitutional validity will not be canvassed at this point.
Author: Urias Teh Pour
Legal Advisor on the Liberia Law Society Land Rights and Freedom of Expression Projects
The recent move to repeal Liberia’s Criminal Libel laws by the newly elected Government of former Liberian Football legend, George Manneh Weah, has been hailed by human rights groups as a positive step in the right direction. The effort to decriminalise section 11.11 of the Penal Law comes barely two months following the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to Liberia. The UN Officials called on the Government of Liberia to review all laws that undermine free speech, as guaranteed by article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other instruments ratified by Liberia.
On May 8th, 2015 a press release revealed that the Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, has signed the controversial Cybercrimes Bill which seeks to criminalize acts related to computer systems and information and communication technologies and to provide for a system of investigation, collection and use of electronic evidence. The said law has serious implications for constitutional and international human rights, particularly freedom of expression and information online and the right to privacy. The most controversial provisions relate to criminalization of sharing of information, extensive police powers of search and seizure, surveillance without judicial authorization as well numerous vaguely defined offences.
It is important to note that that freedom of expression is one of the fundamental aspects of human life. As human beings, we need freedom to develop and share thoughts or ideas about things that happen and influence the way we live. Freedom of opinion, expression and information encourages free debate and plurality of ideas which is important for development of any society. More importantly, these rights are internationally recognised human rights. They are engrained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (art.19), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (art.19) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights 1981 (art.9), all of which have been ratified by Tanzania.
International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists: 2 November 2014
In a land where the right to freedom of expression and information is heavily curtailed, I sought to interview three exiled Eritrean journalists and allow them the space to freely express what they cannot in their country.
Why did you choose to become a journalist?
*Aman: “I used to be a development worker; I was taken to prison camps and three times I saw people tortured and killed. I started to write stories and post articles on what was happening…I became a journalist by accident – all I wanted to do was contribute to justice”.
Since Eritrea’s “liberation” from Ethiopia in 1991 and its international recognition as an independent sovereign state in 1993, the country gradually evolved into a nation rife with human rights abuses. Notably, the systematic attack on dissent of any form resulting in extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and indefinite incommunicado detentions.
What does freedom of expression mean to you?
Aman:” It is a symbol of democracy- the flow of information without fear or restrictions – the means to freely enlighten and educate”.
18 September 2001 was coined as the Eritrean government’s ‘Crackdown’ on all independent media, when it banned the entire private press by shutting down media houses. It also marked the end of dissenting voices at the political level. Eighteen journalists, as well as eleven political leaders were rounded – up and imprisoned incommunicado without trial. Their whereabouts are still unknown till today. Since then, more than 70 journalists have been detained at different periods in time.
The recent arrest and imprisonment of The Nation magazine editor, Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer and the magazine’s columnist for contempt of court, while shocking the world, has exposed the government’s malevolent desire to suppress freedom of expression and crash dissent.
The two, who were arrested after publishing articles questioning the detention without trial of a government vehicle inspector, have subsequently been sentenced to an effective two years in prison.
Swaziland’s Constitution of 2005 clearly provides for freedom of expression in section 24. It stipulates that every person has a right of freedom of expression and opinion. Harassment, torture, incarceration of journalists or any other attempts to suppress free speech is a violation of this constitutionally guaranteed right.
The incarceration of the two is not an isolated incident but rather a highlight of the repressive regime’s longstanding intention to suppress freedom of expression. To understand Swaziland’s lack of freedom of expression it is important to look into the country’s media landscape. The government has maintained a tight grip on the media so as to control the information being disseminated while the few ‘independent’ media outlets have been constantly attacked leading to unprecedented levels of self-censorship.