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Title: The protection of freedom of expression in Africa : problems of application and interpretation of Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
Author: Adjei, William Edward
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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The current democratization developments and the need to adequately protect freedom of expression and media freedom in Africa have ushered in significant constitutional and legislative changes in the continent. As such, the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights constitutes significant machinery for entrenching the liberty of the individuals and a trend in the fight against human rights violations, but how effective are these changes, at the regional and local levels? This thesis critically analyses these developments with a view to finding new constitutional and legislative provisions that facilitate freedom of expression and media freedom within the context of Article 9 of the Africa Charter. While tracing the history of human rights in Africa, the thesis articulates the importance of freedom of expression and consensus democracy in Africa's political and cultural traditions, the early socio-political and ideological history, and its colonial past. Furthermore, the thesis highlights Africa's entrenched political and cultural traditions that promote human rights in general and freedom of expression in particular, although some African communitarian principles might be considered anachronistic and anti-democratic. This research is concerned about the impact of African governments' criminal penalties for defamatory statements and policies restricting the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression. These coercive measures in light of the intolerant culture in African politics are often used to deprive citizens and the media their right to freedom of expression and valuable information which merited legitimate public concern. While we acknowledge that media activities and freedom of expression may be restricted in order to protect reputation, private life, public order, public health, public morality, public safety and national security, as enshrined in Article 27 (2) of the African Charter, the thesis is, however, concerned at the broad reach of several of the restrictive measures that have been enacted by arbitrary governments in which there is a very limited basis of public debate or competitive politics to buttress the freedom of the media. On the attainment of political independence, most of the African states adopted constitutions enshrining bills of rights justiciable by the courts. Despite these bills of rights, many of the African states have been guilty of gargantuan crimes and human rights violations. Despite the ratification of international and regional instruments dealing with the right to freedom of expression and information, African political leaders continue to misapply and misinterpret Article 9 (2) of the ACHPR because of its vagueness and continue to rely on criminal defamation statutes and the like to suppress critical and dissenting views. These broadly phrased prohibitions encouraged by the poor drafting of Article 9 (2) of the Charter, criminalise the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and have a real “chilling effect” on debate on matters of public interest. The main conclusion of the thesis is that while most recent African constitutional developments offer promises of free expression and democratic accountability, there are persistent problems that need to be addressed as part of the overall democratization process. For example, there is the need to abrogate anachronistic criminal defamation statutes and insult laws in many African countries, put an end to the use of extralegal and coercive measures in the state's relation with the media, as well as a need for opposition political parties' contribution in parliament without government interference. Judicial independence, awareness of international standards on freedom of expression and information, equitable access to government media, journalistic morality and professionalism are other problems highlighted in the thesis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Freedom of expression