On 11 and 12 October 2018, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (Special Rapporteur), Commissioner Lawrence Mute, organised a technical draft meeting of experts on the Revision of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, in Mombasa, Kenya.
The Declaration is being revised pursuant to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) Resolution 222, Resolution 350 and Resolution 362. Resolution 222 was adopted on May 2, 2012 at the 50th Ordinary Session of the Commission, and authorized the Special Rapporteur to expand Article 4 of the Declaration focusing on access to information. At the 20th Extra-Ordinary Session in June 2016, the Commission adopted Resolution 350 to allow the Special Rapporteur to revise the entire Declaration. Thereafter, the Commission adopted Resolution 362, on November 4, 2016 at the 59th Ordinary Session of the Commission, highlighting the need to have clear and comprehensive principles to guide the promotion and protection of human rights in the online environment and thus encouraged the Special Rapporteur to take note of developments in the Internet age during the revision of the Declaration.
On April 22, 2018, an expert meeting was held at Nouakchott-Mauritania, under the guidance of the Special Rapporteur, to discuss the approach and process for undertaking the revision of the Declaration and to identify the sections or issues in the Declaration that need to be revised or expanded, taking into account new developments in the thematic areas covered under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The experts meeting comprising freedom of expression, access to information and digital rights advocates on the African continent, held in Mombasa, reviewed the draft technical paper, prepared by Henry Maina of Article 19. The technical paper set out the context for and the principles which should guide the revision of the Declaration. Experts also discussed the broad principles to be contained in the Declaration under three thematic areas: freedom of expression, access to information and digital rights.
Subsequent to the technical meeting will be the actual drafting. The Draft Declaration will be reviewed by members of the technical team and thereafter, regional and public consultations will be conducted to discuss in greater detail, the content of the Draft. Once finalised, the initial Draft Declaration will be presented before the Commission in 2019.
The Centre for Human Rights provided logistical and technical support to the process. Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Rights and Hlengiwe Dube, also from the participated in the meeting as members of the freedom of expression and access to information clusters.
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