Safety and Security
In Southern Africa, journalists, media workers and freedom of expression activists continue to come under fire. Violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression continue to occur, including increased attacks against, and killings of, journalists and media workers. There is also an increasing concern regarding the very real threat posed by mass online surveillance to the work of journalists. There is no doubt that journalist’s merit special protection when performing their duties, since the fundamental role played by journalists of providing information is crucial in the functioning of societies and is deserving of special protection, as violations to their rights, similarly entails the violations of others’ rights to access knowledge.
Although there is no specific legal instrument that exclusively deals with the protection of journalists, there are numerous instruments that contain clauses that address the broader aspects of safety and security. Most of the international and regional human rights instruments address the protection of the right to life, personal liberty and integrity, freedom from torture, freedom of expression, and the right to an effective, which in turn can provide journalists with the necessary warranties against violations of their rights and risks to their safety. If these provisions are fully respected, they would encompass the different types of interference with the role of journalists.
The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights guarantees individuals against arbitrary deprivation of the right to life (Article 4); establishes an absolute prohibition of torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 5); guarantees the right to liberty and security of the person (Article 6); and freedom of expression (Article 9).
In addition to this, there are specific guarantees enclosed in Article 11 of the ACHPR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa:
- Attacks such as the murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and threats to media practitioners and others exercising their right to freedom of expression, as well as the material destruction of communications facilities, undermines independent journalism, freedom of expression and the free flow of information to the public.
- States are under an obligation to take effective measures to prevent such attacks and, when they do occur, to investigate them, to punish perpetrators and to ensure that victims have access to effective remedies.
- In times of conflict, States shall respect the status of media practitioners as non-combatants.
MISA fully supports the call for States, especially, those in Southern Africa, to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference, including through (i) legislative measures; (ii) awareness-raising among the judiciary, law enforcement officers and military personnel, as well as journalists and civil society regarding international human rights and humanitarian law obligations and commitments relating to the safety of journalists; (iii) monitoring and reporting of attacks against journalists; (iv) publicly condemning; and (v) dedicating the necessary resources to investigate and prosecute such attacks. Additionally, MISA appeals for support on the issue of surveillance technologies and online security to be introduced into the debate on the safety of journalists and the protection of whistleblowers.
MISA is committed to fighting impunity within southern Africa and will enhance the framework for its media freedom monitoring work to generate more evidence of violations, with the intention of holding those who violate media rights to account. At the same time, MISA will extend mechanisms for protecting journalists, media workers and freedom of expression activists within the region.