12 November 2012

East Africa: Develop Protection Mechanisms, Human Rights Defenders Urged

Juba — Journalists and human rights defenders from the East and Horn of Africa have been urged to work together and come up with mechanisms that will protect and promote their activities in the region.

In a keynote address at the journalists' sub-regional conference, the Chairperson East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRD) advocated for strategies for the safely of journalists and combating impunity.

Hassan Shire Sheikh, in a statement obtained by Sudan Tribune, decried what he described as continued shrinking in space for journalists in the sub-region, with freedom of expression and media freedom "severely" curtailed.

He however said numerous challenges remain, despite the fact that some progress has been made, in recent years, to highlight the role journalists play in the promotion and protection of human rights and to safeguard media practitioners.

This year alone, 18 media practitioners in Somalia have reportedly been killed, with several cases of arrests and harassments of journalists documented in Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

"The need therefore for effective and efficient mechanisms and strategies for the protection of journalists and combating impunity is self-evident," said Hassan.

The project, Hassan noted, has since 2006 continued to recognize the status of journalists as one of the groups of human rights defenders who are most at risk in the region, and advocated for protection of the environment in which they operate.

"Journalists are on the front of human rights promotion and protection," the EHAHRD Chairperson emphasized, while acknowledging the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in 2002.

He however said, the right to freedom of expression is especially relevant to the daily work of journalists and human rights defenders, much as its recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter of Peoples' Rights.

Also since 2006, according to Hassan, there have been a number of significant developments regarding the safety of journalists, especially at the United Nations levels, citing the Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, adopted by the UN in 2011.

At least 30 journalists and human rights defenders attended the conference organized by EHAHRD, with support from the Swedish government.

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