Archive for the 'Sub-Saharan Africa' Category

Rwanda’s ’genocide ideology’ laws: threatening freedom of expression and the rule of law

In many post-conflict societies, a delicate balance must be struck between safeguarding rights and freedoms and taking measures to prevent future conflict.  Rwanda is often cited as a case where this debate is particularly relevant, given the severe ethnic conflicts resulting in the 1994 Genocide, and the subsequent passing of post-conflict “genocide ideology” and “sectarianism” laws. In theory, these laws were created to stifle the kind of hate speech broadcasted during the 1994 genocide, but in practice they have been used to silence critics of the current government, as reported in Amnesty International’s 2011 Report, Unsafe to speak out: Restrictions on freedom of expression in Rwanda. Continue reading ‘Rwanda’s ’genocide ideology’ laws: threatening freedom of expression and the rule of law’

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Swazi PM threatens to censor journalists

 In a statement published last Tuesday in the state-owned Swazi Observer newspaper the Prime Minister, Sibusiso Dlamini accused news columnists of tarnishing the name of the country and taking bribes from foreign parties. He announced his intention to create a law that requires journalists to seek permission before publishing any article which is critical of the government. No further detail is provided about what the law would require or when it may be enacted.

  Continue reading ‘Swazi PM threatens to censor journalists’

South African media regulation poses threat to its constitutional values

The ruling African National Congress is pushing through measures for greater state control of the media in South Africa, by way of a Protection of Information Bill, currently being debated by the legislature, and a proposed Media Tribunal, which would make the country’s press answerable to parliament.  The Protection of Information Bill would introduce criminal offences such as publishing classified information, with a broad definition of “national security”, and minimum prescribed prison sentences for breaches.  The justifications offered by the ANC – that the media is imbalanced, resistant to change and cannot regulate itself – raise questions when set against a background of long-running tension between the ruling party and the press, the latter of which is perceived as taking an ‘anti-ANC’ stance. 

The proposals have been met with outrage from South Africa’s media, free speech defenders and opposition parties, who have branded the measures as “Orwellian”, and highlighted the dangers of the slippery slope of censorship.  The 1996 South African Constitution is internationally praised as one of the most progressive in the world, particularly its Bill of Rights, which sought to redress the endemic injustices of the Apartheid era, and includes a detailed guarantee of freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and other media.  The current government must ensure those constitutional protections are upheld.  Accusations of censorship must be countered by ensuring the protection of freedom of expression for all, including opposition journalists, and the highest safeguards must be put in place against abuse of any media measures that enter into force, so that they protect only legitimate national interests, and not political ones.


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