Human rights situation in Africa: a special focus on shrinking of civic space

CIVICUS statement at the 71st Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect the work and operation of human rights defenders and CSOs on the continent.

During the 69th and 70th Ordinary Sessions of the Commission, CIVICUS expressed concerns at the attacks on civic space, particularly the freedom of expression, assembly, and association in several African States.

We wish to convey to the Commission our continuing concern and alarm at the continued shrinking of civic spaces in many African countries, which are finding various unconstitutional and illegal ways to limit and restrict the rights to freedom of assembly, association, expression, and access to information, as guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

A growing trend is banning and closing media outlets and journalists through arrests, detention, and court charges to unduly limit freedom of expression and access to information.

In Zambia, on 26 March 2022, a journalist, Chiyuka, was arrested and charged for doing his journalism work while covering an event that involved police and community leaders in the northwest town of Mufumbwe.

In Malawi, on 5 April 2022, Vitus-Gregory Gondwe, a journalist and activist based in Malawi, was arrested and detained for his work which exposes corruption in the government of Malawi.

While in Cameroon, on 1 April 2022, the National Communications Council suspended journalists Séverin Tchounkeu and Cédrick Noufele, working with the privately-owned broadcaster Equinoxe TV for one month for hosting the teachers’ union that is on strike for citing deteriorating conditions and unpaid salaries.

These and many more incidents are only illustrative of a general trend in many African countries and threaten civic space, particularly press freedom and independent media as a foundation of democratic and accountable governance.

We, therefore, urge the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to:

  • Respond to cases of shrinking civic space in Africa, wherever and whenever they happen.
  • All on the African States to respect and protect the rights to expression, access to information, assembly, and association for everyone under their jurisdictions.
  • Continue to popularise the Commission’s Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and the Commission’s Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections in Africa.
  • Call on the African States to create an enabling environment for civil society organisations to operate by removing restrictions and threats on the right to freedom of expression to ensure civil society, activists, and citizens can express themselves without fear of reprisals.


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