Here are my slides for my presentation today at the Arab Human Rights conference in Doha, Qatar:
My main points:
- Need to focus on judicial rulings and get good ones translated/disseminated.
- Need to focus on international approaches — don’t just report that a journalist was arrested, explain how that violates her ability to her job and how other countries protect journalists.
- Need for transparency when reporting on free press violations. Who is the judge? The prosecutor? Don’t let them hide behind anonymity.
- Focus on penal codes, not just media laws. The two rulings in Africa overturned bad penal code law (criminal defamation and “false news”), not bad media law.
I really stressed the recent ruling from the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights that outlawed criminal defamation. The high court ruled that putting a journalist in jail is incompatible with human rights.
Here’s a link about the court ruling. And here’s a link to theKonate vs. Burkina Faso ruling itself. And here’s a link to the Media Legal Defense Initiative, the NGO that provided defense for the journalist in Burkina Faso who had the temerity to report on the corruption of a public official.
This African court ruling is a landmark decision for this part of the world. I’m working on creating an organization that translates legal rulings like this one for dissemination to Arabic-speaking judges, lawyers, prosecutors and journalists in the Middle East. Contact me if you’d like to help.
Finally, since you’re here, please take a look at my research: Arab Media Laws: Identifying restraints on freedom of the press in the Gulf countries. Here’s an earlier version that was translated into Arabic: قوانين الإعلام العربية: تحديد القيود على حرية الصحافة في دول الخليج.