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Rights defender on freedom of expression

May 19, 2010, 12:02 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K Marenah

Madam Itoro Eze Anaba, the focal person of the West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WARDHN) Anglophone West Africa, has called on states parties to comply with Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human and Peoples Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, as well as the provisions on freedom of expression enshrined in their respective constitutions.

"Freedom of Expression is a right recognised by international and regional human rights instruments and, particularly, by Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, as well as by many African constitutions, which include provisions that guarantee and protect this right," she said.

Ms. Itoro Eze Anaba made this call recently at the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, which is currently underway at the Liaco Atlantic Hotel in Banjul.

She emphasised that freedom of expression, including the freedom of the press, is key to the development of any country, adding that it is important for the continent to take specific measures to ensure the protection and enjoyment of this right by all.

She also urged state parties concerned to conduct independent investigations on cases of violations relating to freedom of expression, and prosecute those found guilty of these violations.

"We would like to remind state parties that freedom of expression implies the right to receive and disseminate information, express one's views and also to criticise situations that run counter to the established standards, as far as human rights is concerned," she said.

"It follows, therefore, that whenever human rights are violated, one should be able to report those violations, to be heard by any authority who receives complaints and awards compensation.

Unfortunately, it is clear that in practice, the enjoyment of this right is not always effective and suffers from numerous violations, especially in cases involving journalists," she added.

"In Ivory Coast," she said, "journalists are constantly being threatened and some were denied permission to cover the opposition demonstration on February 19, 2010, in Gagnoa. Newspapers, such as "The Patriot" and "Le Nouveau Reveil" have been closed, the director and the editor threatened."

In Guinea, she added, "secret detention of journalists is still ongoing with the recent detention incommunicado of Emmanuel Toumani Camara, a journalist who lived in N'Zerekore, a town in South Eastern Guinea, held secretly in December 2009, and subsequently, declared persona non grata in the region by the governorate of the region."

Whilst in Nigeria, Nathan S Dobak, editor of the Christain Newspaper "Lighter Bearer" and his reporter Sunday Gyanny Bwede were murdered in the course of covering the recent Jos riot. She revealed that in Lagos, three journalists have been killed within the past two years, namely Paul Abayomi Ogundeji, board member of the This Day Newspaper, Bayo Ohu, the deputy editor of the Guardian Newspaper and Edo Sule Ugbagwo, crime reporter of the The Nation Newspaper.

"The police have not been able to solve any of these cases, and many journalists now live in fear for their lives, particularly following receipt of death threats issued to Yusuf Ali of The Nation Newspaper, Olusola Fabiyi of the Punch Newspaper, Chuks Okocha of This Day and Gbenga Aruleba of Africa Independent television," she further stated.

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