By Taiye Elebiyo-Edeni
UNESCO and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance freedom of expression, press freedom and safety of journalists.
Ms.Elohor Ovadje, Media Officer of the court made this known in a statement in Abuja.
According to her, the agreement was signed by the Director General of UNESCO Ms. Audrey Azoulay and the President of ECOWAS Court of Justice Mr Edward Asante, to foster the commitment and cooperation between the two organisations.
She noted that the agreement was also to raise capacities and knowledge of judicial actors on the legal framework governing freedom of expression and press freedom.
She quoted Azoulay as saying that the Freedom of expression and its corollaries are at the core of UNESCO’s mandate.
“Our partnership with the ECOWAS Court signifies a vital cooperation that will allow journalists and individuals in Africa to exercise the right to freedom of expression with greater security.
“The agreement formalizes the cooperation existing since 2016 between the two organisations and facilitates the development of the joint activities targeting the judiciary and civil society in Africa, such as seminars, training workshops and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) on freedom of expression issues.
Justice Asante of ECOWAS Court was quoted as saying that the memorandum is a significant part of cooperation between both parties to protect and reinforce freedom of expression and press freedom in Africa.
“I look forward to my further work with UNESCO and the judges and lawyers in Africa that will benefit from the cooperation between the two organisations.
“Over the past years, UNESCO has rolled out series of online courses in Africa in both English and French, along with on-the-ground workshops for judges, prosecutors, lawyers and civil society that help reinforce international and regional standards of freedom of expression.
“The courses have already reached around 1,800 judicial officers and civil society representatives in Africa, and provided crucial training to help defend free speech and end impunity for 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 specialised training of judicial officials and exchanges in areas of freedom of expression, access to public information and safety of journalists.”
He, however, said that the project in Africa was based on a similar course launched in Latin America, where more than 10,000 judges and legal professionals were trained since 2013.(NAN)