Global Freedom of Expression

4 November

Press freedom in Africa: how can States achieve compliance with African Court and AU standards, online and offline?

  • 1:15pm-3:00pm EST
  • Columbia University Law School, Room 304
    435 W 116th Street
    New York, NY 10027

Panel Description

Over the past few years, the African regional and sub-regional courts have handed down important decisions affecting States’ obligations to uphold press freedom and protect the right to freedom of expression. The Banjul Charter’s Article 9 codifies AU Member States’ obligations regarding free speech. The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in a recent landmark decision, Lohé Issa Konaté v. Burkina Faso, held that imprisonment as a penalty for defamation was in violation of States’ obligations under Article 9. In a previous judgment the Court found that the State’s failure to properly investigate and prosecute the perpetrators in the case of the killing an investigative journalist constituted a violation of its obligations under both Article 7 (fair trial) and Article 9. In parallel, tensions grow in the intersection between cybersecurity and the exercise of the right to free expression online across the continent, and the issue of access to information has been put firmly on the map, in part due to an active campaign by the African Commission.

How can AU Member States navigate these norms and ensure they are compliant with their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights?

The panelists will focus on the following questions:

  • What implications do the recent judgments on press freedom of the African Court and the sub regional courts have for States’ compliance with their obligations under the Banjul Charter?
  • How can States ensure they are compliant with the Charter’s obligations while also addressing national security concerns?
  • How should the new landscape of free speech online be navigated in light of existing standards and the emerging framework on cybersecurity?
  • How can States put in place the proper framework to implement their obligations regarding the right to access information?
  • What standards should be adhered to in guaranteeing press freedom, online and offline?


Nani Jansen Reventlow, Associate Tenant at Doughty Street Chambers, Fellow at Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, lead counsel on Konaté

Mariana Mas, Policy Officer Freedom of Information & Expression at Open Society Justice Initiative

Mailyn Fidler, Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, expert on African cybersecurity, cybercrime laws, and Internet freedom.


Christina Hioureas, Chair, United Nations Practice Group at Foley Hoag