Training Judges from African Judicial Institutions for Ending Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

  

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


A 5-day Training of the Trainers targeting judges from African Judicial Training Institutes was held at the Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, from 29 November to 3rd December 2021, organized by UNESCO, in partnership with the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights.

This training aimed at empowering judges to enhance their capacity to contribute towards ending impunity for crimes against journalists, hence promoting freedom of expression and safety of media professionals. It attracted 28 judges and magistrates from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Senegal, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique and Sudan, who were exposed to regional and international standards on freedom of expression and safety of journalists, with particular focused on jurisprudence in African courts.

At the opening ceremony of this training of the trainers, the Director of Public Prosecutions of Kenya, Mr. Noordin Mohamed Haji hailed the timeliness of this capacity building opportunity, arguing that ensuring the safety of journalists and fighting impunity required preventions mechanisms and actions to address some of the root causes of violence against journalists. He commended the role that the criminal justice sector had played to enhance the safeguarding of freedom of expression and safety of journalists, citing several cases in African jurisprudence, notably those of Norbert Zongo vs Burkina Faso, Issa Konate vs Burkina Faso, and Jacqueline Okuta vs Attorney General of Kenya which decriminalized defamation, as clear indications of the progress Africa had made in safeguarding freedom of expression and safety of journalists.

In his remarks, UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen called for strengthening of national, regional and international partnerships in promoting freedom of expression and safety of journalists, noting that it has been through partnerships that 28 resolutions and decisions on safety of journalists had been adopted by UN bodies, including UNESCO, and other international organizations between 2016-2021.

"I can’t emphasize enough the importance of regional and subregional partnerships in promoting freedom of expression and safety of journalists. Partnerships not only optimize resources; they also leverage the diversity of abilities, competences, best practices, and comparative advantages that various partners bring on board." Prof. Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa and Representative to Kenya.

Various judges appreciated the organization and content of the training, testifying how exposure to the training content had made a significant difference in their perception and appreciation of freedom of expression and safety of journalists’ issues.

Ms Margaret Ateh, a Magistrate and Head of the Administrative Section in the National School of Administration and Magistracy in Cameroon, appreciated the use of illustrations in the training programme such as videos that allowed her better understanding of theoretical concepts, as well as appreciation of certain aspects of the trail process that she had not given much attention to before. “I was happy to learn and appreciate that the openness of court trials as part of the concept of open justice is a right, except in some few cases which require special protection of the parties from public exposure. When I go back to Cameroon, we will look at the best way to implement what we have learnt”, she said.

Ms Jinx Bhoola, a Judicial Educator at the South African Judicial Education Institute welcomed the training course, particularly in the way it had opened new perspectives for the participants: “This training has opened our eyes from a different perspective. It has been very insightful; it has made various contributions to our understanding of freedom of expression and safety of journalists”.

Dr Stephen Ouma, Deputy Director of Research and Policy at the Kenya Judiciary Academy appreciated the opportunity of participating in the training and called for a forward view of the opportunities that the training presented. “I am happy to have participated in the UNESCO training for judicial trainers. As the Kenya Judiciary Academy, we are optimistic and only hope that the past experiences of journalists will shape our future as a Centre of Excellence in Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists in Africa”, he said.

Mr Guilherme Canela De Souza Godoi, Chief of the Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists Section at UNESCO and main facilitator of the training reaffirmed the importance of the continuous collaboration and partnership with judicial actors. He indicated that since 2013,?the series of trainings under the UNESCO Judges’ Initiative?had raised the capacities of judicial actors on international and regional standards on freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists in regions across the world, with over 23,000 judicial actors, including judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, trained on these issues through both Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), on-the-ground training and workshops, and the publications of a number of toolkits and guidelines.

At the conclusion of this training of the trainers, participating African judges and magistrates in attendance, as well as UNESCO Communication and Information Officers from different UNESCO Offices in Africa, were tasked with coordinating the preparation and holding of national training programmes in their respective countries and sub regions, through their respective judicial training institutes, to ensure that as many judicial actors as possible benefit from the knowledge and resources shared during the training, including, among others:

The Training of the Trainers in Nairobi, Kenya, is part of UNESCO Judges’ Initiative which aims to reinforce the capacities of judicial actors to promote freedom of expression and safety of journalists as a contribution to end impunity for crimes against journalists by ensuring prosecution and trial of those responsible for attacks against journalists, as well as, more broadly, prevent indiscriminate actions against free speech.

It follows a series of UNESCO training programmes targeting security force members, judges and members of the judiciary implemented both online and, on the ground, including in Latin America, Africa and the Arab States.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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