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.
In addition, ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders are working on submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Between March and May 2020, the Senegalese Government adopted a series of administrative orders and decrees banning all protests in the country and imposing restrictions on freedom of movement to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Some of these orders were adopted before the Government declared a state of emergency and imposed disproportionate restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in violation of international law. ARTICLE 19 expresses concerns about these measures and further calls on the Government to repeal the Law no. 2021-18 that would entrench broad executive powers to restrict people’s human rights in the absence of a declaration of a state of emergency.
ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned about the impact of the South African Disaster Management Regulations on the right to freedom of expression in the country, which is a form of problematic ‘false information’ legislation. We call on the Government to abolish the Regulations and ensure that all COVID-19 related legislation meets international freedom of expression standards. Further, the South African Government is promoting a reporting system called Real411 that aims to deter people from sharing ‘false information’ under the threat of criminal sanctions. This can have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
ARTICLE 19 is concerned about several prohibitions in the 2020 Public Health Order – the regulation introduced to suppress the spread of COVID-19 in the country. While some elements of the Order include important public health measures, others have no discernible nexus to the COVID-19 pandemic or are otherwise overbroad, thus threatening to severely undermine public health and Zimbabwe’s compliance with its international human rights obligations. These are particularly provisions on prohibitions of ‘false reporting’ and restrictions on protests.
Ethiopia: Hate speech and disinformation law must not be used to suppress the criticism of the Government (19 January 2021)
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 2021)
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.
In a joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review ( UPR) of Zimbabwe, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa and Gender Media Connect Zimbabwe submitted a joint report assessing Zimbabwe’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, covering the period between November 2016 to July 2021. The report examines progress against previously accepted recommendations relating to the right to freedom of expression and information and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
See here for more (background) information.
See here for the full submission.