African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Governments Urged to Urgently Address Impunity Against Freedom of Expression Practitioners

Remmy 1

Remmy 1Participants attending the 59th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) taking place in Banjul, The Gambia have expressed shock at the rising impunity against freedom of expression practitioners in Africa. State delegates, National Human Rights Institutions and civil society made a unanimous call for ACHPR and Governments to take urgent measures to address impunity in Africa as sure way to increase citizens’ access to information in Africa.

The call was made during the Panel, “Access to Information and the Situation of Female Journalists”. The Panel, Chaired by Advocate Pansy Tlakula, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights who also doubles as Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information examined killings and attacks on journalists which has created ripple effect on their ability to seek information and inform the public on matters of public interest.

Gilbert Sendugwa, the Head of Secretariat of Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) while introducing the video, “Stop Impunity Against Journalists” noted that according to UNESCO reports, more than seventy journalists have been killed in line of duty in African countries yet in nearly all the cases, the willingness of States to investigate and bring perpetrators to book has been lacking. In calling for a continental study of this problem, Gilbert observed that, “lack of information on how widespread the problems is, who is affected and how, where it is, its dimensions, trends, predisposing factors, ACHPR and other stakeholders cannot properly appreciate the problem hence inability to address it”.

In a moving testimony that left entire audience in shock and tears, Ms Remmy Bahati, a female journalist from Uganda, narrated how Uganda Police Force had attacked her dignity as a woman in an effort to prevent her and other journalist from covering a political event. She reported that the case had stalled at the Uganda Human Rights Commission where the case was reported because the Uganda Police has repeatedly snubbed summons. Ms Bahati re-echoed the need for a continental study on impunity against freedom of expression practitioners, called upon the commission to ensure that member states ensure safety and dignity of female journalists on the continent of Africa.

While concluding his presentation, Gilbert Sendugwa argued that strong and independent oversight institutions such as National Human Rights and legislatures are important for advancing the rights of freedom of expression and access to information in Africa.  He also restated that a comprehensive study on impunity against freedom of expression practitioners in Africa was urgently needed to inform interventions.

Hon. Tlakula expressed condolences to Ms Bahati for the loss of mother in the aftermath of the attack and through Hon. Med Kaggwa urged the Uganda Human Rights Commission to expedite handling of the matter to its logical conclusion. She also observed that the Government of Uganda should take every step to ensure that Ms Bahati is protected from any reprisals that may arise from sharing of her experience.

Delegation of Uganda committed to communicate ACHPR concerns to principals in Kampala whom she promised would inform the African Union of appropriate measures to address impunity in Uganda.

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