Enhancing the Freedom of Expression in West Africa and The Sahel

31 Aug 2021

Enhancing the Freedom of Expression in West Africa and The Sahel

UNOWAS in collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR-WARO) organized a regional exchange session on the theme: ‘Enhancing the freedom of expression, implications for the respect of human rights and democratic consolidation in West Africa and the Sahel.

The objective of this session was to create a platform for regional stakeholders to consult and exchange on the current state of affairs relating to the respect of the freedom of expression in the region, share experiences and identify concrete solutions to existing and emerging challenges that may limit the respect of the freedom of expression and ultimately undermine the peace and stability in the region.

The Visio-conference session, organized as part of the regular UNOWAS Palaver-Tree, brought together media professionals, relevant national authorities, representatives of networks of West African and Sahelian civil society organizations, representatives of regional organizations and the United Nations.

Participants  made a series of recommendations aiming at protecting the protection of freedom of expression as a human right and as a central component for democratic consolidation in the region.

In this regard, participants representing UNOWAS/OHCHR and ECOWAS Commission underlined the need to work with member states in the region to enhance the respect of the right to freedom of expression including through the strengthening of legal and institutional frameworks to ensure the right to information, protect journalists, media personnel and human rights defenders, and to enhance advocacy and collaboration between media regulatory institutions and media professionals in order to improve understanding of roles.

Reiterating the importance of media professionals to leverage the role of  regional and international human rights mechanisms including special procedure mandate holders, the Palaver-Tree session recommended that ECOWAS Commission and UN will jointly support capacity building and efforts aimed at ensuring the independence of the judiciary and engagement with security sector institutions to promote the respect of human rights in their work.