Security Forces Remain Biggest Threat to Freedom of Expression in West Africa – MFWA Report

State security forces—mainly police, military and security intelligence officers are the leading violators of the right to freedom of expression in West Africa, according to the latest monitoring report by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). This report, titled West Africa Free Expression Monitor, analyses incidents of freedom of expression violations in the region during the period of September to December 2014.

According to the report, state security forces committed more than half of the free expression rights violations recorded during the period. The report also indicates that the level of violations by security forces was consistent with the findings of the MFWA’s previous monitoring report for the period of May to August 2014, in which security forces were the leading perpetrators of violations.

In the latest report, the MFWA found that security forces committed 19 of the total 37 violations recorded from September to December 2014. The recorded incidents of violations took the form of attacks or threats (9 incidents); arrests and arbitrary detentions (4); violations of the right of assembly (3); censorship, fines and even murder (1 each).

The violations by security forces occurred in Benin (5 incidents); Guinea and Sierra Leone (4 each); Liberia (2); Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria (1 each).

“Security forces, as agents of the state, are obligated under international law to respect and protect human rights, including the right to freedom of expression,” said Anjali Manivannan, the Programme Officer for Freedom of Expression Rights Monitoring and Campaigns at the MFWA. “It is therefore unfortunate that we are witnessing a situation in which duty bearers are the worst violators of freedom of expression.”

The report indicated that the total number of recorded incidents of violations of freedom of expression in West Africa decreased from 38 during the second trimester of 2014 to 37 during the final four months of the year.

The latest West Africa Free Expression Monitor analyses incidents of violations in all 16 countries in West Africa; the 15 ECOWAS member states plus Mauritania from September to December 2014. It highlights types of violations; perpetrators of the violations; and countries in which the violations occurred during this period. Read the full report with executive summary here.

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