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We couldn’t agree more with the AU Chair

Nov 5, 2015, 9:44 AM

The challenge of freedom of expression in Africa has strongly been highlighted at the ongoing 57th Ordinary Session of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul.

The chairperson of the African Commission, in her opening remarks at the commencement of the session, brought to the fore the dangers journalists in Africa are faced with in rendering their service for the good of their nations and humanity.

“In many countries, we have seen an increase in reprisals against journalists and human rights defenders for simply exercising the right to freedom of expression. We all need to encourage a culture of tolerance and respect for the fundamental rights of everyone,” the commission chair said.

We couldn’t agree more with the commission chair, as this has been the norm over the years, but impunity has stood our way.

We must, therefore, fight impunity and call for justice to be done and ensure it is done, because if people are silenced and the issue is swept under the carpet, then we are promoting the culture of impunity.

In many of our countries, freedom of expression and information is virtually non-existent, while journalists and human rights defenders continue to be victims of reprisals by their governments.

This phenomenon continues to be a concern, particularly given the fact that many international agencies including the African Commission often depend on journalists and human rights defenders to have information on human rights issues in our various countries.

As the Commission chair rightly stated, recent targeting of journalists in several countries during times of political crises should be the concern of everyone, and must be addressed by all as a matter of urgency.

Media are the mirror of our societies: if they are free and critical, we are free and safe, stated the EU High Representative on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, on 2 November 2015.

The declaration stated further:“While we mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, reporters in many countries across the world face an increasing level of intimidation and violence.

“Attacks on journalist are not only attacks on the victims, but also on freedom of expression and freedom of the media. The EU expects State authorities to fully abide by their international obligations to effectively, promptly and in an independent manner investigate such crimes and to ensure that both state and non-state perpetrators and instigators of such violence are brought to justice.”

It is, therefore, encouraging that our own African Commission is speaking in the same vein.

But we should not only stop at talking; we must put measures in place to stop impunity for crimes against journalists and human rights defenders.

Without which other crimes like embezzlement of state funds, money laundering, child trafficking, violence against women, early child marriage, and even terrorism will continue to hold sway and go on unabated.

“In the name of justice there cannot be subjection and in the name of peace there cannot be impunity.”

Alvaro Uribe