From 20 to 21 August 2013, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights and the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Regional Secretariat, held a stakeholders meeting on decriminalisation of laws limiting freedom of expression and on the safety of journalists for southern Africa, in Pretoria, South Africa.

This meeting brought together government officials, national human rights institutions, national journalist associations as well as civil society organisations from 11 southern African countries (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, to discuss issues related to the decriminalisation of laws which criminalise freedom of expression and the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity in southern Africa.

Twenty-five representatives from government, National Human Rights Institutions, and civil society from Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Cameroon attended.

The first part of the meeting was dedicated to discussions on the use of criminal laws which limit freedom of expression in each of the 11 southern African countries represented, and their impact on democracy, good governance and transparency. At the end of discussions,country specific Action Plans were developed. These Action Plans not only comprise of advocacy targeting the government for the repeal of these laws and creating greater understanding of the negative impact of these laws, but also build on the capacity of the media to effectively self-regulate itself and to ensure a high level of professionalism, through the promotion of ethical journalism and quality editorial standards.

On the second day discussions focused on the existing international and regional frameworks on the safety of journalists and their usefulness in creatinga free and safe working environment for journalists and media practitioners in southern Africa. At the end of these discussions, participantsidentified possible actions that could be taken by the relevant stakeholders to tackle the problem in each country, and in doing so, draw inspiration from the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists.

The financial support of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for this meeting is gratefully acknowledged.


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