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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

UN, AU bodies in new drive to fight
impunity for crimes against journalists

ARUSHA, Tanzania (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Saturday called upon African judiciary to continue promoting the safety of journalists and ending impunity in the continent.

Zulmira Rodrigues, Head of UNESCO Dar es Salaam Office, Representative to Tanzania made the call in the country’s safari capital of Arusha when speaking at one-day seminar on “Strengthening Judiciary Systems and African Courts to Protect the Safety of Journalists and End Impunity.”

Rodrigues suggested the need for deliberate steps towards ending impunity with a shared vision to support the expedition of commitments made to ensure the effective domestication and implementation of the agreed legal and policy measures.

“This includes the establishment of protection mechanisms with early warning and rapid response systems for journalists and media workers,” Rodrigues said.

The seminar, which involved legal practitioners and journalists from across Africa, was meant to raise awareness and help reinforce capacity building of law professionals in Africa regarding freedom of expression, the safety of journalists, ways to ending impunity and the need to decriminalize defamation.

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EARLIER REPORT:

UNESCO urges African judiciary to protect journalists’ safety, end impunity

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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