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“Decriminalise Expression Across Africa” Says Leading Campaign Group

“Decriminalise Expression Across Africa” Says Leading Campaign Group

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Meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 19-20 September, the Decriminalisation of Expression ( Campaign group reaffirmed its commitment to decriminalising defamation, libel and ‘insult’ laws, sedition and false news across the African continent.

Organised by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), and supported by Open Society Foundations (OSF) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), the meeting assembled over 30 freedom of expression advocates, legal representatives, journalists and media groups from across the African continent to set out a roadmap for action on greater freedom of expression and better legal protections for journalists.

In her opening keynote remarks, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), Pansy Tlakula, urged the campaign to continue its groundwork by proactively holding governments to account over their promises to better protect freedom of expression.

“Wherever and whenever we have the opportunity to raise broader Access to Information issues with governments, we must do so, and ensure decriminalisation is on the table at every opportunity,” said the Special Rapporteur.

The meeting was boosted by news early Saturday morning that South African ruling party the African National Congress (ANC) had publicly committed itself to the process of decriminalising defamation, eradicating it from South African law and leading the charge across the continent.

At an ANC-organised legal research workshop, a separate event held in Johannesburg prior to the DoX Campaign meeting, ANC party officials, the National Editors' Forum (SANEF) and civil rights groups discussed the unconstitutionality of criminal defamation.

Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, said the ANC did not want to see journalists in jail. “We believe that is unconstitutional and does not speak to the ethos of the state we want to aspire to," said the minister. “We are going forward as a continent. We cannot behave as if we are still in the era of Homo naledi.”

Welcoming the ANC’s decision, the DoX Campaign group reiterated the need for strong action and definitive results to show that the ANC were serious about changing the law in favour of freedom of expression.

“These are positive signs from the ANC and we sincerely hope they follow through on their commitment and lead the way in Africa to bring about real change for the continent’s journalists who are facing an ever-growing list of pernicious legislation and increasingly severe criminal charges, simply for doing their jobs,” said WAN-IFRA Global Campaign Director, Alison Meston. “With the experts at the disposal of the DoX Campaign coalition, we’d be delighted to assist the ANC in producing a truly continent-leading media law that decriminalises journalism once and for all.”

Media and communications lawyer Justine Limpitlaw, who helps lead the DoX Campaign coalition, said: “What is particularly encouraging is that Minister Radebe nodded when asked if the South African Government would help encourage other countries in SADC to rid the whole region of criminal defamation. This is great news as we need multi-lateral action to tackle Africa’s Colonial-era laws.”


The Decriminalisation of Expression Campaign aims to rid Africa of criminal defamation, insult, false news and sedition laws. The campaign is spearheaded by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Advocate Pansy Tlakula, along with organisations spanning the five regions of Africa: East, West, South, Central and North.

For more information contact visit or contact Alison Meston, Director, Global Campaigns, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Email: Tel: +33 6 73 93 86 65.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2015-09-20 10:15

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...