Within the COVID-19 Response in Africa project, ARTICLE 19 is producing legal and policy analyses on the COVID-19 response legislation in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. These analyses are produced by monitoring developments in the legal frameworks of the target countries, and will be used for advocacy work in the defense of press freedom.
Ethiopia: Hate speech and disinformation law must not be used to suppress the criticism of the Government (19 January)
ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the text and misuse of the Ethiopia hate speech and disinformation law against those who are critical of the Government’s policies. The Proclamation to Prevent the Spread of Hate Speech and False Information, that took effect on 23 March 2020 is extremely problematic from a human rights and free speech perspective and should be immediately revised. In any case, while the Proclamation remains in effect, it must not be misused and the Government must not abuse its power under the pretext of addressing the public health crisis.
In April 2020, following the global outbreak of COVID-19, Kenya adopted the Pandemic Response and Management Bill, 2020 (the Bill), introducing several measures aimed at mitigating the negative effects of the pandemic. ARTICLE 19 recognises the scope of the ongoing global public health emergency under COVID-19 and the necessity for States to take measures to ensure the health and safety of their citizens. At the same time, any restrictions of rights guaranteed under international human rights law as well as in the Kenyan Constitution must be necessary and proportionate. Some provisions, buried at the end of the Bill, raise alarm for freedom of expression and the lasting impact of the Bill beyond COVID-19.
Tanzania: Online Content Regulations 2020 extremely problematic in the context of COVID-19 pandemic (19 January)
ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the possible impact of the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2020 (the 2020 Regulations), adopted in July 2020, on right to information during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have repeatedly raised concerns that the 2020 Regulations fail to comply with basic international freedom of expression standards. We are especially and gravely concerned that the 2020 Regulations prohibit the dissemination of critical public health information in Tanzania during the global health emergency of COVID-19. There is absolutely no justification under international law for the restriction of potentially life-saving public health information, even of foreign journalists reporting in Tanzania.