The African Union has launched an effort to rid East Africa of colonial-era defamation and sedition laws. Since independence, many countries have used them to clamp down on freedom of the press.
The effort to have the laws repealed is being led by Pansy Tlakula, the AU’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information. In a statement, she said, “”Criminal defamation laws are nearly always used to punish legitimate criticism of powerful people, rather than protect the right to a reputation.”
This month, she met with government and NGO representatives to identity which laws limit investigative journalism into alleged corruption, or government or business wrongdoing.
A number of freedom of expression groups are applauding or supporting the effort, such as Britain’s Article 19 and the U.S. – based Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ.