The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) celebrates the seminal decision of the African Court on Human and People's Rights on 28 March 2014, which strongly re-affirms the obligation of countries to protect the rights of journalists to practice free from intimidation and harassment.
The decision of the Arusha-based Court, which is the highest judicial body on the continent, also granted justice to the wife and family of celebrated anti-corruption Burkinabe Journalist, Norbert Zongo, who was murdered in 1998. Even though subsequent investigations into the murder of the journalist implicated some Burkinabe government and security officials, the family of the deceased had, until the March 28 verdict, been denied justice.
The verdict followed a complaint filed at the court by Genevieve Zongo, wife of the deceased journalist through the support of a multi-national legal team from Burkina Faso, Senegal, Tanzania and Nigeria.
"The court held that the failure of a government to diligently seek and bring to account the persons responsible for the assassination of a journalist intimidates the media, has a chilling effect on free expression, violates the human rights of journalists, endangers truth and should not be allowed," the Nigerian-based Guardian newspaper reported.
For several years, the MFWA and its partners put pressure on the government of Burkina Faso to find and punish the killers of Zongo and the three others who were murdered in 1998. The MFWA subsequently named its periodic free expression review magazine Zongo-Giwa, in honour of Zongo and Dele Giwa another great Nigerian Journalist who was murdered in 1986.
The MFWA continues to commiserate with the family of all murdered journalists and commends Mrs. Zongo for her tenacity in the pursuit of justice. The MFWA also commends the team of lawyers who supported Zongo's widow, for their commitment to the promotion of human rights and freedom of expression.
For further details on the history of the Norbert Zongo's death, the court case and decision see this report on the court's website.