30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day: FIDH wants to rekindle the flame of freedom of expression in Africa

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UNESCO/Joel Sheakoski

New York, Paris, 4 May 2023. On 3 May 2023, a day dedicated to press freedom worldwide, FIDH was invited to the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss the close links between human rights and freedom of the press. On this occasion, FIDH and its African member organisations were able to openly condemn the repeated attacks on journalists, media and human rights defenders on this continent.

Conflicts, political instability and information wars signify threats to freedom of the press around the world. However, FIDH has chosen to focus on the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders and journalists in Africa.

“They face repeated and increasingly violent attacks, thus hindering their legitimate work in upholding human rights and revealing the truth,” said Hassatou Ba-Minté, head of FIDH’s Africa office. “States must respect their international and regional commitments, in particular the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

This year, FIDH and its 39 African member organisations have documented numerous cases of violations of freedom of expression. In Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sudan, Chad, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, etc. random arrests and detentions are on the increase, as well as judicial harassment and violence. FIDH and its member organisations demand the release of all these human rights defenders and journalists. They also call for an immediate end to the violation of their freedom and attacks against them and to fight against the impunity of the perpetrators of these acts. In particular, FIDH renews its call for justice to be served in the case of the murder of Martinez Zogo last January. The judicial process must be completed, the perpetrators identified and punished, and the victim’s family must obtain compensation.

According to the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index 2023, on the African continent, the practice of journalism is considered difficult in almost 40% of countries and problematic in more than 45%. Despite some positive developments - Botswana has moved up 30 places to 65th in the world - the African region has some of the most significant declines. Attacks on journalists and restrictions on civic space in several Sahelian countries (Mali 113th, Burkina Faso 58th), but also increased restrictions on civic space in Senegal (104th) in the midst of elections are of particular concern.

As World Press Freedom Day celebrated its 30th anniversary, in the Chamber of the United Nations General Assembly, FIDH called on States and international actors such as the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union to strengthen the coordination of their actions and their protection mechanisms to support human rights defenders and journalists in their capacity to act in favour of human rights, justice and the rule of law. For fundamental freedoms are the foundation on which respect for human rights and the rule of law is built and it is the responsibility of states to guarantee and promote them. Freedom of the press and access to information are essential for building democratic societies.

It was from a deep awareness of these principles that the Windhoek Declaration was promulgated on 3 May 1991, following a seminar at which the ideas exchanged by African journalists and media practitioners served as a catalyst for promoting press freedom, independence and pluralism in Africa and other parts of the world. This declaration is considered a benchmark for press freedom in the world and has been the impetus for the evolution of African and international standards to affirm press freedom according to this ideal. More than 30 years after this historic step, this ideal, which has never ceased to testify to its strength and liberating potential, must be revived and materialised in practice, not in spite of, but thanks to the renewed political will of States.

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