African Media Lawyers Network Launched at the 3rd African Media Convention in Ghana

Mekelle፡24 May 2024 (Tigray Herald)


African Media Lawyers Network Launched at the 3rd African Media Convention in Ghana

The 3rd African Media Convention held in Accra, Ghana May 15-17, 2024 came to a close with a major milestone, the official launch of the African Media Lawyers Network (AMLN), the first continental network with the mandate of protecting freedom of expression and press freedom in Africa, at the closing ceremony attended by hundreds of delegates drawn from Africa and the global community. 

The lawyers’ network was officially launched by Dr. Rita Bissoonauth, the Director of the UNESCO Addis Ababa Liaison Office to AU and UNECA together with Sarah Peeters, of Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU).

Speaking at the launch, Dr. Bissoonauth said: “We are pleased today to launch the African Media Lawyers Network, after a lot of hard work, widespread consultations and consensus with stakeholders led by the Pan African Lawyers Union and the Congress of African Journalists. We want to leverage on the African Media Lawyers Network, giving a focus on the needs and requirements of the safety of journalists. As UNESCO, we are here to support, at the national, sub-regional and regional levels”.  

2022 marked the 10th Anniversary of the United Nations Plan of Action on the safety of journalists, she added, and the issue of impunity which saw a number of continent-wide consultations to look at the achievements, the gaps and how to improve on the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity in Africa.

“Freedom of expression and safety of journalists have been on the decline in Africa. Journalists, unfortunately, are still being attacked and they face a lot of challenges. This is why there has been consensus to establish the African Media Lawyers Network as a major step in our efforts to address the challenges,” she concluded.

On her part, Ms. Sarah Peeters, added: “We are happy to be here to launch the African Media Lawyers Network, the first of its kind operating at the continental level, to bring together the legal profession, media actors and institutions to enhance quality and capacity in media related litigation efforts, both prevention and protection wise. Let’s make this network effective and achieve great things.”

Commenting on the launch, the President of CAJ, Chris Isiguzo said: “We are excited to officially launch the African Media Lawyers Network, an effort led by PALU, CAJ and UNESCO. This is a major step in tackling the issue of impunity for crimes against journalists witnessed through arbitrary arrests, detention and malicious prosecution. We are assembling a team of lawyers under the network to offer rapid response in cases where journalists face such challenges, across Africa”.

Before the launch, the partners also hosted a workshop on the sidelines of the Convention that was attended by journalists, lawyers, freedom of expression advocates and other stakeholders under the theme: Defending the Media: Media Litigation, Defense and Freedom.

The workshop hosted a panel of experts, among them lawyers, journalists and CSOs who discussed the role of media lawyers’ networks in improving media space in AU member states; Enhancing collaboration between lawyers and the media in AU member states, and sharing good practices by continental, regional and national lawyers’ networks.

The establishment of AMLN, the first ever continent-wide network of media lawyers, aims at protecting and promoting press freedom, providing legal expertise, and supporting journalists and media houses in advocating for a legal environment that is conducive to independent and responsible journalism in the AU Member States. The project is supported with funding from UNESCO/IPDC
Through an empowered team of lawyers, the AMLN will lead concerted responses to emerging threats and harassment of journalists as well as providing the necessary legal support, including reviewing media laws and policies. The AMLN will further facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing among legal actors, media partners and stakeholders, which can fast-track protecting journalists and promoting press freedom on the Continent.

The AMLN, which is currently hosted by PALU in Arusha, Tanzania, will now embark on consolidating a team of lawyers across the continent and develop a plan of action towards rapid response on cases of journalists facing prosecution as well lead research and legal reform initiatives on repressive laws in AU Member countries.

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