Journalist Safety

Journalist Safety

Zambia attack

The right to work without threat of violence is a basic human right. Everyone – from journalists, to bloggers, to people who just have something to say – has the right to form and express his or her opinions. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds this right to freely seek, receive and send out information, ideas and opinions through any media.

For freedom of expression to exist, there must be a free press, and the safety and security of journalists is the hallmark of a free press.

We have noted with concern the growing trend of physical and verbal harassment of journalists in their course of duty usually by party cadres, sometimes even in full view of the Police.

In Zambia, the year 2015 ended with several violations. The list of violations observed throughout the year and its impact on the freedom of the media is quite saddening. Even more so is the absence of a full, explicit constitutional guarantee of media freedom, save a clause in article 20 of the constitution on the freedom of expression.

MISA has since engaged the Zambia Police service and political parties in the safeguard of journalists and media freedom as well as the need for proactive action in curbing political violence, not only against journalists but even ordinary citizens in their pursuit of enjoying their freedom of expression.

International Human Rights Law provides for many rights relating to the safety of journalists, including the right to life, personal liberty and integrity, freedom from torture, freedom of expression, and the right to an effective remedy.


International Legal Instruments

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) secures the “right to life, liberty and security of person” (Article 3), the right not to be subjected to “torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (Article 5) or arbitrary arrest (Article 9), and the right to an effective remedy for violations of one’s rights (Article 8).
  • The International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR) gives the right to effective remedy (Article 3), the right to life (Article 6), prohibition of torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 7), the right to liberty and security of the person (Article 9), and freedom of expression (Article 19). 

Regional Legal Instruments

  • The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights guarantees individuals against arbitrary deprivation of the right to life (Article 4), prohibits torture and other inhuman treatment (Article 5), guarantees the right to liberty and security (Article 6), and freedom of expression (Article 9).
  • Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, states that attacks such as the murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and threats to media practitioners and others exercising their right to freedom of expression, undermines independent journalism, freedom of expression and the free flow of information to the public.
  • The Declaration of Table Mountain calls for the repeal of criminal defamation and ‘insult’ laws, across the African continent, which are used to harass, arrest and/or imprison media workers. 
  • The 1991 Windhoek Declaration calls for a free, independent and pluralistic media and includes a call to end the murder, arrest, detention and censorship of media workers.