Citizen media and the freedom of expression

Author: Adebayo Okeowo
Advocacy Coordinator, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

If you have ever found yourself whipping out your phone to film or photograph police officers brutally beating up peaceful protesters, and you subsequently share that video or picture on social media, you have just contributed to citizen media. You are also someone who can be referred to as a citizen journalist. This is just one of the several scenarios in which civilian witnesses are – knowingly or unknowingly – helping to document evidence of human rights violations.

Citizen media encapsulates videos, pictures or audio produced by non-professional journalists, especially using their mobile phone as a tool. Citizen media started gaining prominence when an increasing number of civilians became equipped with smartphones and had access to social media.

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The impact of Internet shutdowns in Africa

Author: Tomiwa Ilori
LLD Candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

In the past, authoritarianism like any other form of illegitimacy has always been paranoid of disruptions. The internet, since its decentralisation in the last century, has blurred boundary lines, projected a classless society and looked to upset apple carts in political spaces. It is typical that this form of “magic” that could redefine state power rattled many governments. African governments soon began to show overt signs of paranoia and not too long, Africa became the first continent to experience an internet shutdown in Egypt on 28 January 2011. Since then, several governments in Africa have constantly violated digital rights with the justification of national security which supposes that both are mutually exclusive.

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The impact of state surveillance and censorship of sexuality on the lives of LGB Ethiopians living in Addis Ababa

Author: Selamawit Tsegaye Lulseged
African Union Human Rights Observers Mission in Burundi (formerly)

Dialogue regarding same-sex sexual act and eroticism is a recent phenomenon in Ethiopia. As is true for most African countries, in Ethiopia, there is a strong heterosexual culture that bases its legitimacy on the hegemony of masculinity. The social construction is based on the values of family that depends on traditional gender role and religious dogmas. In many discourses, lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals are mentioned in relation to pedophilia, mental sickness and people who chose deviant sexual behavior. Thus, same-sex sexuality is not only something that is pushed under the rug, but also subjected to state scrutiny and embargo.

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Freedom of expression: Hopes, anxieties and skepticism in Liberia’s nascent democracy

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.

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The outlaws in Malawi: The travails of sexual minorities in a Southern African country

Author: Urerimam Raymond Shamaki
Barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria; LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) Candidate

Introduction

Homosexuality is still considered a crime in many countries of the world. Malawi is one of the 33 countries in Africa and 72 in the world that still criminalises homosexuality. Although there is no direct law prohibiting homosexuality in Malawi such as is the case in countries like Nigeria with the Same-Sex Prohibition Act 2015, there are still provisions of some laws indirectly affecting homosexual activities in Malawi. This article briefly reviews some of the provisions of these laws and how they impact on the rights of sexual minorities in Malawi.

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The idea of an African passport and the freedom of movement of persons in the continent: Only wishful thinking?

cristiano_dorsiAuthor: Cristiano d’Orsi
Post-Doctoral Researcher and Lecturer, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria (South Africa)

“Hail! United States of Africa-free!
Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair!
State in perfect sisterhood united,
Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be.”

This is the incipit of the poem Hail, United States of Africa, composed in 1924 by M.M. Garvey, a famous Pan-Africanist leader.

This poem is considered to have initiated the concept of United States of Africa (USAf), a federation, extensible to all the fifty-four sovereign states, on the African continent.

In 2002, at the launch of the African Union (AU), President T. Mbeki, its first chairman, proclaimed that: “By forming the Union, the peoples of our continent have made the unequivocal statement that Africa must unite! We as Africans have a common and a shared destiny!”[1]

After that occasion, the concept of USAf has been highlighted in a more concrete way by other African leaders, such as A.O. Konaré in 2006,[2] M. Gaddafi in 2009 –the first to mention the possibility to issue a unique passport for the entire continent-[3] and, more recently, by R. Mugabe.[4]

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International human rights day: A call to Eritrea to own up to its shocking human rights record!

Legogang MaxeleguAuthor: Lebogang Maxelegu
Assistant Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

10 December 2015 marked the 65th anniversary of the International Human Rights Day, which the international community celebrates annually to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. The UDHR is arguably the first global document to pronounce on human rights standards that countries ought to aspire to. Though not a treaty itself and therefore not binding on Member States, the UDHR serves as the cornerstone for the definition of human rights and fundamental freedoms as outlined in the United Nations Charter, which is legally binding on all State Parties including Eritrea which joined the United Nations(UN) in 1993.

The UDHR is also the bedrock upon which treaties such the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were founded. Eritrea has notably ratified both covenants, further and invariably placing upon itself a legal obligation to abide by the human rights norms enunciated in the declaration as well as other ratified treaties.

The United Nations General Assembly held its Seventieth Session in October 2015, during which the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, H.E. Mr. Osman Saleh, was invited to address the assembly. In his speech, the Honourable Minister declared that Eritrea is making remarkable progress in building a nation founded on the respect for human rights, contrary to what he described as “unfair and baseless accusations” of human rights violations that Eritrea has been subjected to. But is Eritrea truly making the progress that it has committed itself to in terms of the UDHR? Is it being unfairly targeted by the international community? These questions warrant an examination of some of the observations on the state of human rights in Eritrea made by treaty bodies and the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

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