The African Media Lawyers Network (AMLN) has been officially unveiled, marking a significant stride in the protection of press freedom within the African Union (AU) Member States.
This pioneering initiative, a collaboration between the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) and the Congress of African Journalists (CAJ), supported by the UNESCO Liaison Office to AU and UNECA, aims to safeguard journalists and media houses by providing legal expertise and fostering an environment conducive to independent and responsible journalism.
The framework of the AMLN was unveiled following a stakeholders’ validation meeting held on 31 January 2024, which saw the participation of over 60 key stakeholders from various sectors including media, civil society, and legal networks.
During the meeting, the stakeholders lauded the initiative as a “major milestone” in the fight for the safety of journalists and emphasized the importance of continuous training, transparency, and sustainability.
Sarah Peeters, PALU Program Officer, highlighted the significance of the AMLN in the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists, underscoring its role in combating impunity against journalists in Africa.
Christopher Isiguzo, CAJ President, expressed gratitude for the collaboration and endorsement of key stakeholders, emphasizing the network’s commitment to providing legal support and protection for journalists across the continent.
The AMLN, currently hosted by PALU in Arusha, Tanzania, is set to be officially launched during the third Africa Media Convention (AMC) in May 2024 in Accra, Ghana.
Prior to the launch, the network will conduct a capacity building workshop for journalists and lawyers, focusing on media litigation, defense, freedom, safety, and access to information in Africa.
The establishment of the AMLN follows extensive stakeholder consultations and receives support from legal experts worldwide.
Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy, praised the initiative, recognizing Africa’s leadership in establishing the first continent-wide network of media lawyers.
The Conference on Safety of Journalists held in November 2022 in Zambia recommended the establishment of AMLN as a crucial component in promoting a free and safe environment for journalists, both online and offline, in conflict and non-conflict situations.
Dr. Rita Bissoonauth, Director of the UNESCO Addis Ababa Liaison Office to AU and UNECA, commended the timely intervention of AMLN, urging collaboration among journalists’ associations, civil society, academia, and development partners to create a conducive media space on the continent.
Funded by UNESCO’s International Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC) and the Multi-donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists, the establishment of the AMLN signals a collective effort towards protecting press freedom and upholding democratic values across Africa.