Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Importance of Democracy

Over the next year, 15 different elections will take place across the African continent. Six of the forthcoming elections will be held in East Africa where, from Tanzania to Sudan, a wide range of legal tools hindering freedom of association have recently been put in place by the authorities.

In Uganda, human rights defenders themselves are increasingly under threat. For instance, Gerald Kankya, Executive Director of the Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC), an organisation that combats unlawful evictions from public land, has recently been the target of physical and judicial harassment.

In Kenya, following the attack in April 2015 by the islamist militant group Al Shabaab on Garissa University College in the north-eastern part of the country, human rights organisations have been the target of government repression. Haki Africa and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), which advocate for constitutional means to counter terrorism while respecting human rights, have reportedly suffered judicial harassment.

In Tanzania,  a new statistics law that makes it illegal for any publications to claim data as "official" if it has not been approved by the National Bureau of Statistics and also a cyber-crime law that punishes the electronic publication of "unsolicited" information and an access to information act which criminalises the spreading of "false" information. The Tanzanian media has had its hands tied by the establishment of a media council that determines which journalists and media outlets are permitted to operate. Under these circumstances, civil society is left with no choice but self-censorship.

Freedom of association and expression are cornerstones of any democratic society.

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