Judges must strengthen freedom of expression in the Arab region

In partnership with the Superior Council of the Judiciary of Morocco, UNESCO officially opened this Tuesday, June 7 in Rabat its conference under the theme “Dialogue of the judges. The role of judges in strengthening freedom of expression in the Arab regionwhich will continue until June 9, 2022.

Held in Rabat on Tuesday, the conference also brought together a college of mid-career magistrates from several Arab States (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Palestine, Tunisia, Sudan and Yemen), who exchanged around the role of the judiciary and judges in the prosecution and protection aspects of the safety of journalists.

It consisted of a presentation by experts on the areas of international human rights standards and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, access to information, safety of journalists, hate speech and the fight against misinformation.

The event will include a roundtable discussion of best practices on legal decisions relating to these fundamental freedoms as well as expert-led discussions to develop recommendations on the best ways to proceed.

Safety of journalists and impunity

Inscribed in UNESCO’s global priority for Africa, this conference was implemented within the framework of the United Nations action plan on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity aimed at creating a free environment. , safe and serene for journalists and media professionals, participants said.

According to the UNESCO Director-General’s 2020 report on the safety of journalists and the danger of impunity, 156 murders of journalists and media professionals were recorded worldwide in 2018-2019, including 30 in the region Arab States and 18 in Africa.

These attacks, continues the same source, often occur in non-conflict situations by organized criminal groups, militias, security personnel and sometimes even local police. This same report, presented at the conference, notes, for the same period, that 89 journalists were killed in countries without armed conflict, compared to 67 journalists killed in countries in the throes of armed conflict.

As long as journalists continue to lose their lives because of their profession, freedom of expression will be in dangerconcludes the Report of the Director-General of UNESCO on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity emanating from the 32nd session of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Program for the Development of Communication (25 and 26 November 2020).

Prevent, protect and prosecute

This meeting thus supports the United Nations action plan aimed at promoting freedom of expression, public access to information and the safety of journalists in Africa, through mechanisms tackling the “Three Ps”. namely, prevent, protect and prosecute. An initiative that strengthens UNESCO’s work on the Arab region with actors in the judicial field on international and regional standards on freedom of expression.

The primary objective is to raise awareness and inform them about international standards and regional jurisprudence on freedom of expression, access to information, digital challenges related to the Internet and the security of journalists.

As a specialized agency of the United Nations mandated to promote freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press, UNESCO is carrying out this training project for judges in order to strengthen the knowledge and expertise of the actors of the judiciary, say its representatives.

The overall objectives of this project are to strengthen the independence of judicial systems in their investigations and prosecutions, as well as the strengthening of the protection of journalists and media professionals through the consolidation of the capacities of judicial actors on international standards in freedom of expression, access to information and safety of journalists.

In this sense, this thematic conference foresees 3 key results. This is firstly about improving knowledge of international norms and standards in the areas of freedom of expression, including its limits, freedom of the press and disinformation, then sharing good practices, experiences as well as case studies and finally the formulation of recommendations to consolidate the network and collaboration between judicial systems in the Arab States region, including the incorporation of UNESCO standards and instruments.

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