Southern Africa judiciary members trained on legal standards on freedom of expression

The judiciary system has a critical role in addressing crimes against journalists and ensuring that perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice. 22 members of the judiciary from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania were recently trained on legal standards on freedom of expression. 

Content shared during the training included media laws, media policy and other issues that affect journalists in their day-to-day activities. Training participants had an opportunity to deliberate on rights for freedom of expression, protection of journalists’ freedom of expression and promotion and protection of media diversity among other issues.

Through the training, a centre of reference for the judiciary is envisaged to serve as a reference for members of the judiciary across Africa. Training curricula developed for the training of trainers allows for replication of the training in other countries.

South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI) Chief Executive Officer Dr Gomolemo Moshoeu said there was need for personal training to develop modern judicial skills on media issues, which could develop the judges’ understanding of media rights and freedoms. 

Dr Moshoeu also said enhancing the knowledge of the judiciary on issues of freedom of expression was a step towards ensuring crimes against journalists were addressed. 

A justice system with knowledge on legal standards on freedom of expression is required to deal with attacks on journalists and to hold those responsible for such attacks to account. 

Most journalists’ cases have been left unresolved due to a number of challenges which include: the lack of political will to pursue investigations, including fear of reprisals from criminal networks in addition to inadequate legal frameworks, a weak judicial system and lack of resources allocated to law enforcement bodies. 

Between 2006 and 2020, about 142 journalists were killed in Africa, with 87% of those killings remaining judicially unresolved or unreported, as recorded in the UNESCO observatory of killed journalists. The 2019/2020  State of Press Freedom in Southern Africa report by the Media Institute of Southern African (MISA) noted that in the Southern region many cases of threats, violence and attacks against journalists were not properly investigated which often led to more severe aggressions and murders.

The training for Judicial Officials and Judiciary Training Institutes was conducted by the South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI) and the Institute of Judicial Administration Lushoto (IJA) with funding from the UNESCO International Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC) under the project, “Support the establishment of a reference Centre for Training the Judiciary on Legal Standards on Freedom of Expression”.

Since 2013, UNESCO’s Judges’ Initiative has raised the capacities of judicial actors on international and regional standards on freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists in regions across the world.  Over 23,000 judicial actors, including judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, have been trained on these issues, notably through a series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), on-the-ground training and workshops, and the publications of a number of toolkits and guidelines. Training resources include toolkits for the judiciary in Africa and Latin America, a handbook for trainings of security forces and a handbook on fostering the relation between security forces and journalists.