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25 Judges train in freedom of expression, safety of journalists

BY: Alberto Mario Noretti
Dr Archibald Yao Letsa (middle), the Volta Regional Minister, presenting a certificate to Justice Senyo Dzamefe, a judge of the Court of Appeal. With them is Professor Joan Barata Mir, an international human rights expert and resource person
Dr Archibald Yao Letsa (middle), the Volta Regional Minister, presenting a certificate to Justice Senyo Dzamefe, a judge of the Court of Appeal. With them is Professor Joan Barata Mir, an international human rights expert and resource person

Twenty-five judges selected from the southern sector of the country yesterday[June 22, 2022] ended a three-day course on freedom of expression and safety of journalists in Ho.

The participants included 10 High Court judges, 10 Circuit Court judges and five judges of the Court of Appeal from the Greater Accra, Volta and Central regions.

They were taken through International and Regional Standards on Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Expression and Legitimate Restrictions and ECOWAS and its role in the protection of freedom of expression and safety of journalists.

The training topics also included The Right to Access to Information and Freedom of Expression; Freedom of the Media and Protection of Journalists.

Organised jointly by UNESCO, the Japanese Embassy in Ghana and the Judicial Training Institute, Ghana, the training was to build the capacities of the judges on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.

Cornerstone of human rights

The Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Dr Angela Lusigi, in a speech read on her behalf at the closing ceremony, said freedom of expression was the cornerstone of human rights and a fundamental right to seek, receive and impart ideas, regardless of frontiers.

She commended UNESCO for its relentless commitment to spearhead that agenda.

Dr Lusigi said the training was an essential component towards attaining Sustainable Development Goal 16, which focused on the promotion of peaceful inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all and building accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

She observed that in recent times, technological transformation and pandemics had affected the way humans communicated, stayed informed and, by extension, socialised.

Freedom of expression in many jurisdictions, Dr Lusigi said, had been tested, in the sense that just when journalists were most needed to spread reliable information, debunk anti-vaccine messages, illuminate response efforts and expose corruption, access to information was curtailed.

That made it difficult to hold duty bearers to account, the UNDP Resident Representative said.

Judicial systems worldwide

Furthermore, she said judicial systems worldwide were confronted with a constantly changing communications environment and they must assess new challenges, like the application of standards that were originally for an off-line environment.

Dr Lusigi highlighted the important role of judges in ensuring a safe environment for journalists by bringing perpetrators of attacks on journalists to justice and pointed out that apart from the human rights framework for the media, there was the need for other laws that guaranteed freedom of expression and safety of journalists as essential requirements for the growth of democracy, development