The right to work without threat of violence is a basic human right. Everyone – from journalists, to bloggers, to people who just have something to say – has the right to form and express his or her opinions. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds this right to freely seek, receive and send out information, ideas and opinions through any media.
For freedom of expression to exist, there must be a free press, and the safety and security of journalists is the hallmark of a free press.
International Human Rights Law provides for many rights relating to the safety of journalists, including the right to life, personal liberty and integrity, freedom from torture, freedom of expression, and the right to an effective remedy.
Since its establishment in 1996, MISA-Malawi’s flagship programme has been media monitoring. The Information Officer is tasked to monitor the local press on a daily basis for any media freedom violations, favourable media policies, among others. So This Is Democracy? (www.misa.org )
The public is additionally urged to report alerts of violations and abuse of the media to MISA Malawi either by calling us on 01 758 091 or emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org. The aim of an alert is to spur people/organisations to take action in view of a particular violation. Some alerts are published in So This Is Democracy? which gives a state of media freedom and freedom of expression in SADC. This book is launched on May 3 every year.
There is also a Media Legal AID which is aimed at improving the media legal environment through strategic interventions and support to victims of media violations. The fund can be accessed by media practitioners, media workers and media houses who cannot afford to pay legal expenses on their own. Would-be beneficiaries need to apply to the committee which will then make a decision basing on the nature of the allegation, whether the applicant complied with media ethics when discharging duties, the strength of the case to be pursued, ability of the applicant to pay and violation of the rights and media freedom.
International legal instruments
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) secures the “right to life, liberty and security of person” (Article 3), the right not to be subjected to “torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (Article 5) or arbitrary arrest (Article 9), and the right to an effective remedy for violations of one’s rights (Article 8).
- The International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR) gives the right to effective remedy (Article 3), the right to life (Article 6), prohibition of torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 7), the right to liberty and security of the person (Article 9), and freedom of expression (Article 19).
Regional Legal Instruments
- The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights guarantees individuals against arbitrary deprivation of the right to life (Article 4), prohibits torture and other inhuman treatment (Article 5), guarantees the right to liberty and security (Article 6), and freedom of expression (Article 9).
- Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, states that attacks such as the murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and threats to media practitioners and others exercising their right to freedom of expression, undermines independent journalism, freedom of expression and the free flow of information to the public.
- The Declaration of Table Mountain calls for the repeal of criminal defamation and ‘insult’ laws, across the African continent, which are used to harass, arrest and/or imprison media workers.
- The 1991 Windhoek Declaration calls for a free, independent and pluralistic media and includes a call to end the murder, arrest, detention and censorship of media workers.