Individuals cannot participate fully and fairly in the functioning of societies, if they must live in fear of being persecuted by state authorities for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
The state must be required to uphold, protect and guarantee this right if it wants to engage in an honest and sincere commitment to democracy and good governance. For this reason, the right of freedom of expression must be reviewed when looking at human security and human rights by member states.
The specific commitment to guaranteeing freedom of expression is article 9(2) of the African Charter which states that “[e]very individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.”
The general commitments include the NEPAD Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance, which states that members agree to ensure “responsible” freedom of expression,
including freedom of the press.
The Grand Bay and Kigali Declarations call for a free and independent press in member states. The CSSDCA Solemn Declaration specifically mentions the rights to freedom of expression and
assembly, when calling for the promotion and protection of human rights. The CSSDCA Memorandum of Understanding calls for adherence to the “fundamental tenets of a plural democratic society”, including a free press and freedom of expression and assembly.
In 2002, the African Commission adopted a Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression, which allows for significant interpretation of article 9 of the African Charter. The Declaration sets out state obligations in 70 AFRICAN COMMITMENTS TO HUMAN RIGHTS
149 Communication 140/94, 141/94, 145/94 Constitutional Rights Project, Civil Liberties Organisation and Media Rights Agenda/Nigeria, 13th annual activity report of the OAU,
1999–2000, para. 36.
Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa, African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, 2002, para. III. respect of this right. It elaborates on the right to information, as well as issues pertaining to private and public broadcasting and print media.
The Declaration also sets out standards for libel and defamation and other criminal measures.