Tanzania: Regional court impressed by safety of journalists

Arusha — THE sheer commitment to upholding freedom of expression and safety of journalists shown by East African Community (EAC) partner states has impressed the East African Court of Justice (EACJ).

The President of the Court, Justice Nestor Kayobera, said on Monday that it was encouraging to see partner states fully embrace the two virtues, which are also a prerequisite for development.

Judge Kayobera, who was answering questions from journalists on the sidelines of a week-long training of judicial actors on freedom of expression and safety of journalists, admitted that EAC member states have come a long way to achieve such a feat, noting that some of these member states have blatantly violated both in the recent past.

“It is truly encouraging to see some of our partner states playing a leading role in advocating for freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, realizing that media freedom is indeed essential to the protection of all other human rights”, explained the president of the EACJ.

Judge Kayobera was quick to point out the number of cases related to the violation of freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, filed with the Arusha court, testifying to the will of the partner States of the EAC to embrace both virtues.

According to Judge Kayobera, the Union of Journalists of Burundi (UBJ) had recently filed a petition before the regional court asking the judges to order the immediate repeal of 42 articles of the law, which they said were contrary to the democracy and freedom of expression.

“The court duly ruled that sections of Burundi’s 2013 press law violate democratic principles and should be repealed and it was gratifying to see the government of Burundi amend such oppressive provisions and this court showed that the rights of journalists must be protected,” he said. .

Earlier this year, the Minister of Information, Communications and Information Technology, Nape Nnauye, said the government was prepared to amend the Media Services Act (MSA) 2016, in the as part of its efforts to safeguard the well-being of journalists and the media industry in general.

The decision, according to the government, is to provide a conducive working environment for journalists, through which their freedom and rights will be promoted and protected.

Mehdi Benchelah, Senior Project Officer of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in charge of the Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists section, said that achieving the two was no small feat in many countries around the world as media professionals continue. fall victim to repressive laws.

“This is a huge problem that not only affects journalists, but also deprives a population of the right to access critical and relevant information,” explained the UNESCO official.

The former journalist said the UN agency continues to work closely with the judiciary as the latter enjoys a certain level of independence in raising awareness of its essential role in upholding human rights. man.

In the middle of this year, the EACJ signed a memorandum of understanding with UNESCO to collaborate in various programs promoting freedom of expression, access to information and the rule of law in within the East African Community.

Elna M. Lemons