FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND
RESPECT TO THE SACRED IN AFRICA:
STATE OF THE ART
By
Khabele MATLOSA
Director, Political Affairs, AUC
OUTLINE
 INTRODUCTION
 OAU/AU NORMATIVE
FRAMEWORK
 SOCIO-CULTURAL DIVERSITY
AND AU POLICY RESPONSES
 REGIONAL SNAPSHOTS
 CONCLUSION
INTRODUCTION
 Freedom of Expression refers to the right to
express one’s ideas and opinions freely through
speech, writing; and other forms of
communication;
 It has to ne enjoyed without deliberately causing
harm to the society and individuals through false or
misleading information;
 It is also important to indicate that freedom of
expression has a strong interlinkage with access to
information as the two are interwoven and
mutually reinforcing.
INTRODUCTION
 Global Policy Framework on Freedom
of Expression: Article 19 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of
1948 makes it clear that everyone has the right
to freedom of opinion and expression; this
right includes freedom to hold public opinions
without interference and to seek, receive and
impart information and ideas through any
media and regardless of frontiers.
 Countries across the globe have provisions in
their Constitutions on Freedom of Expression
and Access to Information.
OAU/AU NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK
 Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
provides that every individual shall have the right to receive
information and every individual shall have the right to express
and disseminate his/HER opinions within the law;
 There are other provisions in support of access to information
and Freedom of expression in: the 2007 African Charter on
Democracy, Elections and Governance and the 2011 African
Charter on the Values and Principles of Public service and
Administration;
 Both the ACHPR and ACDEG are in force and currently the
state of freedom of expression and access to information has
improved tremendously on the continent compared to about
thirty years ago.
OAU/AU NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK
 Over and above the human rights instruments that the AU
has in abundance, the African Commission on Human and
Peoples’ Right has also come up with a Model Law on Access
to Information;
 The Model law is progressive on issues of freedom of
Expression and Access to Information in Africa;
 Conventionally, a model law is a tool for inspiration for states
to promulgate legislation on Freedom of Expression and
Access to Information;
OAU/AU NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK
 The objectives of such an Act could include:
 Giving effect to the right of access to information and
freedom of expression as per the 1981 ACHPR
 Establishing voluntary and mandatory mechanisms for
accessing information and enjoying freedom of expression
 Ensuring that freedom of expression and access to
information does not inhibit freedoms of others;
 Promoting transparency, responsibility, accountability and
educating people about their rights and those of others
OAU/AU NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK
 AU Member States that have adopted Access to Information legislation include:
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South Africa
Nigeria
Angola
Zimbabwe
Liberia
Niger
Liberia
Uganda
Ethiopia
Rwanda
South Sudan,
OAU/AU NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK
 Freedom of expression imposes an obligation on the
authorities to take positive measures to promote diversity,
which include among other things-: availability and
promotion of a range of information and ideas to the public;
pluralistic access to the media and other means of
communication, including by vulnerable or marginalised
groups, such as women, children and refugees, as well as
linguistic and cultural groups; the promotion and protection
of African voices, including through media in local languages;
and the promotion of the use of local languages in public
affairs, including in the courts (Declaration on
Principles of Freedom of Expression).
CULTURAL DIVERSITY: AU RESPONSE
 Freedom of Expression and the problems of intolerance
associated with this right tend to rotate around the
management of socio-cultural diversity;
 Diversity denotes a state of being different or the same vis-àvis others;
 It is one of the various variables around which social groups
differentiate themselves from others and/or provide intragroup solidarity to promote and protect their interests;
 Key markers of diversity include ethnicity, religion, race,
gender, region, class, age, modes of production,
CULTURAL DIVERSITY: AU RESPONSE
 Cultural diversity is here to stay-and to grow. States need to
find ways of forging national unity amid this diversity”
(UNDP, 2004:2)
 “Perhaps the most important challenge facing African
countries today lies here: How does the African state
transform its component identities-its ethnic diversities
inherited from colonial boundaries-into nation-states” (Deng,
2008:31);
 “While majority rule may be the hallmark of liberal
democracy, the protection of minority rights constitutes the
major strength and resilience of any democratic system”
(ECA, AGRIII, 2009:26);
CULTURAL DIVERSITY: AU RESPONSE
 The three quotations above clearly suggest that diversity, in
and of itself, need not lead to adversity and become
destructive;
 It need not be a political liability to nation-building and
sustainable democratic governance;
 Well understood and constructively managed, diversity can
be a resource for national unity and advancing the nationstate building project in Africa.
 It can become an asset for democratisation, nation-building
and peace in Africa.
 SNAPSHOT BY REGION: 5 REGIONS.
CULTURAL DIVERSITY: AU RESPONSE
 Diversity is a feature of all the five regions of the AU;
 In West Africa, it manifests in various ways, but the most
worrying dimension is religious intolerance as manifested by Boko
Haram in Nigeria;
 In Southern Africa, it take on a slightly different dynamic; earlier
on its violent form was racial as under Apartheid in South Africa
and Namibia;
 In North Africa, the diversity-based political violence manifests in
the current crisis in Egypt, especially religious intolerance;
 In East Africa, the diversity manifests largely through ethnic faultlines as we witnessed with the post-election violence in Kenya in
2007/08;
 In Central Africa, no other violent conflict illustrates religious
intolerance as the on-going war in the Central African Republic.
CULTURAL DIVERSITY: AU RESPONSE
 A comprehensive policy response to challenges posed by diversity
in Africa is required in five main policy domains as follows:
 Policies for ensuring political participation of diverse socio-cultural
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groups (e.g. power-sharing arrangements);
Policies on religion and religious practice (e.g. religious tolerance);
Policies on customary law and legal pluralism (e.g. use of traditional
justice systems);
Policies on the use of multiple languages (e.g. multiple, dual or
mono-language policies); and
Policies for redressing socio-economic exclusion ( e.g. addressing
inequality, poverty and unemployment.
CONCLUSION
 In conclusion, I will make a modest contribution as to how Africa can
entrench a culture of freedom of expression and access to information
while at the same time promoting democracy, peace and stability.
 Firstly, all AU Member States must recognise both through their
constitutions and political culture that freedom of expression and access
to information comes with the responsibility of each citizen to respect
and tolerate others. As citizens express their own freedoms, they should
respect and tolerate others to enjoy their own freedoms too.
 Secondly, freedom of belief, opinions and one’s cultural heritage should
not threaten others from enjoying their own cultural beliefs. This calls
for constructive management of diversity especially as it relates to
religion. The mayhem caused by senseless killing of innocent people by
Boko Haram in Nigeria is a major cause of concern for religious
freedom and tolerance on our continent today.
 Thirdly, freedom of expression should not be interpreted as freedom to
destroy societies, but rather freedom to build societies in a harmonious
manner. It is easy to destroy a society and in a short space of time. It is
difficult to build socio-cultural resilience of societies and it takes longer.
It is therefore important to invest more in building rather than
destroying.
CONCLUSION
 Fourthly, the sterling efforts of the ACHPR and the African Court
on Human and People’s Rights in respect of their mandate to
promote and protect human rights must be supported fully by all
AU Member States and the international community so that the
architecture for the freedom of expression is anchored on a more
solid institutional foundation.
 Finally, as you are probably aware by now, the African Union is
developing the African Common Position on the Post-2015
Development Agenda and the Africa 2063 Agenda;
 These medium-term and long-term development frameworks
cannot succeed being anchored on solid foundations of democracy,
peace and stability;
 These foundations for both the African Common Position on Post2015 Development Agenda and the Africa 2063 Agenda will
require the promotion and protection of human rights and
fundamental freedoms including the freedom of expression, access
to information while at the same time combatting incitement, hate
speech and reckless speech based on religious intolerance.
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