SHAPING A FUTURE OF RIGHTS: FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AS THE DRIVER OF ALL OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS
THE past few years have proven to be tough where it concerns the exercise and enjoyment of media freedom and freedom of expression in the Southern African region.
The rise of digital technologies has presented new challenges in terms of the legislative environments in the region.
Governments have responded by introducing cybersecurity laws, which instead of promoting freedom of expression and of the media, have had the opposite effect.
The COVID-19 pandemic once again gave an excuse for some authorities to promulgate laws that criminalise the publication of false information.
But research and extant judgments have shown that criminalising the publication of false information has a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
The COVID-19 pandemic should have taught us that the media are key partners when faced with disasters and other critical situations.
The right to freedom of expression, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a prerequisite and a driver to the enjoyment of all other human rights.
With this in mind, it is imperative that respective governments re-commit to ensuring that citizens across the Southern African region enjoy the right to access information and freedom of expression as envisaged by Sustainable Development Goal 16.10.
There has been a breathtaking slide in terms of freedom of expression and of the media in the region, which translates to the violation of other rights.
Freedom of expression is a driver of all other human rights and if citizens do not meaningfully enjoy this right, it is safe to conclude that other rights are also being violated.