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UNESCO and African Union fight impunity for crimes against press

ARUSHA, Tanzania (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in partnership with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights have embarked in new drive to fight impunity for crimes against journalists.

Frank La Rue, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, said on Friday here that the UN and African Union (AU) bodies have organized an inter-regional dialogue to raise awareness and help reinforce capacity building of law professionals in Africa regarding freedom of expression, the safety of journalists, and the need to decriminalize defamation.

"Legal protection for journalists in the exercise of their profession is an important prerequisite for freedom of expression," he explained.

"As long as journalists are at risk of being threatened, arbitrarily detained or killed for informing the public, freedom of expression will be curtailed and society’s ability to make informed choices limited."

The rate of impunity for crimes against journalists remains extremely high worldwide, according to UNESCO figures, which show that since 2006, fewer than 7 percent of these crimes have been brought to justice.

In Africa, only five of the 131 murders of journalists committed between 2006 and 2015 has been brought to court.

"Judicial and quasi-judicial human rights mechanisms in Africa, such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, play an essential role to foster the rule of law in Africa, and notably for the respect of freedom of expression, safety of journalists and the end of impunity," said Faith Pansy Tlakula, Chairperson and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.

But today, only 30 of Africa’s 54 states are part of the Court, and only seven countries allow their citizens to bring cases directly to it, according to Tlakula.

Sukhdev Chhatbar, an official from the African Court said a seminar in Arusha Saturday aims to encourage more African countries to ratify the Court’s Protocol so as to become part of the regional judicial body.

The seminar is held in preparation for this year’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which will be observed on Nov. 2.



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