UNESCO and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Community Court of Justice have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, (MOU) to strengthen the protection of freedom of expression, press freedom and safety of journalists in the sub-region.
The MOU was signed by the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay and the President of ECOWAS Court of Justice, Edward Asante.
It will foster the commitment and cooperation between the two organizations to raise capacities and knowledge of judicial actors on the legal framework governing freedom of expression and press freedom.
The UNESCO -ECOWAS partnership also signifies a vital cooperation that will allow journalists and individuals in Africa to exercise the right to freedom of expression under greater security The UNESCO- ECOWAS Community Court Agreement formalises the cooperation existing since 2016 between the two organizations.
It also facilitates the development of joint activities targeting the judiciary and civil society in Africa, through seminars, training workshops and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) on issues of freedom of expression.
President of the Court, Justice Asante said the memorandum is a significant part of cooperation between the parties to protect and reinforce freedom of expression and press freedom in Africa.
He said he looks forward to further work with UNESCO as well as judges and lawyers in Africa that will benefit from the cooperation between the two organizations.
For her part UNESCO Director General, Audrey Azoulay pointed out that Freedom of expression is core to its mandate.
For the past years, UNESCO has rolled out series of online courses, English and French in Africa, along with on-the-ground workshops for Judges, Prosecutors, Lawyers and Ccivil society to help reinforce international and regional standards of freedom of expression.
The courses have already benefited about 1,800 judicial officers and civil society representatives in Africa, and provided crucial training to help defend free speech and end impunity of crimes against journalists.
This agreement with ECOWAS Court follows a similar MoU signed in August 2018 by UNESCO and the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, which similarly aims at strengthening capacities of the judiciary in Africa on freedom of expression issues.
The undertaking provides specialized training of judicial officials and exchanges in areas of freedom of expression, access to public information and safety of journalists.
This project in Africa was based on a similar course launched in Latin America, where more than 10 thousand judges and legal professionals were trained since 2013.