Free Expression Violations in West Africa Increased by 52% in Mid-2014 – MFWA Report

Freedom of expression violations in West Africa increased from 25 during the first four months of 2014 (January to April) to 38 during the second four months of the year (May to August), according to a report by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). The figures show a 52% increase in the incidence of violations between the two periods of this year.

The report , West Africa Free Expression Monitor: The State of Freedom of Expression in West Africa (May–August 2014), highlights the perpetrators of violations, types of violations, and countries in which violations occurred. The report’s findings reveal that state actors, particularly security agencies, were the leading perpetrators of violations, with attacks and threats being the most frequently occurring type of violation.

Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, and Burkina Faso each saw an increase in incidents of violations during May to August, compared to January to April. Nigeria recorded the highest number of incidents (7 violations), followed by Sierra Leone (6 violations), and Liberia (5 violations). Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Togo each saw a decrease in incidents of violations during May to August, compared to January to April.

“The right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, to which all 16 West African states are parties,” said Anjali Manivannan, the Programme Officer for Free Expression Rights Monitoring and Campaigns at the MFWA. “Moreover, the national constitutions of all West African states guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The many violations of freedom of expression in the face of legal protections make these abuses all the more disturbing.”

The periodic analysis of freedom of expression violations in West Africa is part of the MFWA’s Freedom of Expression Rights Monitoring and Campaigns programme. Through this programme, the organisation monitors and reports incidents of violations in all the 16 countries of West Africa—the 15 ECOWAS member states plus Mauritania. The organisation uses monitoring and reporting to publicise incidents of violations and pressure duty-bearers to prevent violations and provide effective remedies when they occur.

“The governments of West Africa have a responsibility to respect, protect, and fulfil the right to freedom of expression,” said Manivannan. “This entails not only stopping and preventing violations, but also holding perpetrators of abuses accountable in order to combat impunity.”

The MFWA’s full report and findings can be found here.

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