Press has huge role to play in democratic process, say Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Coulibaly

Dakar, Apr 25 (APS) – The first president of the Supreme Court, Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Coulibaly, insisted, Monday in Dakar, on the important role of the press in democratic functioning, believing that there could be no democracy without freedom of expression.

“Without freedom of expression, there can be no democracy. It is essential to the stability of society since it contributes to the free circulation of ideas and the press plays an essential role in the proper functioning of democracy,” he declared. 

The first president of the Supreme Court spoke at a discussion workshop on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. A meeting in line with the actions of Unesco. The UN agency is notably responsible for ensuring the implementation of an action plan devoted to the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its session of September 18, 2013.  

“Freedom of expression, the right to freely express one’s opinions, is one of the fundamental freedoms, pillars of our democracy”, recalled Mr. Coulibaly, assuring that its guarantee and respect, “pledges of” the ’emergence of an open, tolerant society respectful of the rule of law’, were largely taken into account by international legislation. 

He thus referred to article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789, which states that ”the free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: every citizen may therefore speak, write, print freely, except to answer for the abuse of this freedom in the cases determined by law,” added the magistrate. 

He also recalled the provisions of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which implies the right not to be disturbed for his opinions. and that of seeking, receiving, and imparting, regardless of frontiers, information and ideas by any means of expression whatsoever”. 

The first president of the Supreme Court did not fail to quote article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which provides that ”everyone has the right to express and disseminate his opinions in within the framework of laws and regulations. To these international instruments are added, according to him, ”articles 8 and 10 of our Constitution, which guarantee freedom of expression, which is cited under civil and political freedoms, and the right to freely express one’s opinions. by word, pen, image, peaceful march”. 

These legal provisions do not prevent journalists, in the course of their work, ”in times of peace, as in times of conflict, from sometimes being the object of intimidation, murder, torture, harassment, kidnappings, hostage-taking and arbitrary arrests, without the perpetrators of these serious offenses most often being the subject of appropriate and sanctioned criminal proceedings, analyzed Cheikh Tidiane Coulibaly. Based on available statistics, he deplored the record number of 488 media professionals imprisoned worldwide, 65 being hostages and 46 others killed in 2021 and 24 already since the beginning of 2022. 

According to him, “in 90% of cases relating to the murder of journalists, the perpetrators of such abuse enjoy total impunity, thus reducing journalists to silence”. 

The result, according to the first president of the Supreme Court, ”an inability of governments and authorities around the world to prevent the assassination of journalists and the attacks suffered by the media. 

”This has the consequence of depriving us of a fundamental right guaranteed to us by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that of having knowledge of information and ideas and of communicating them freely to others. others,” he said. 

For the magistrate, “every journalist killed or neutralized by terror is one less observer of the human condition. Each attack distorts reality by creating a climate of fear and self-censorship.”  He thus underlined the need for judges to take advantage of the normative scope of their decisions in the context of the protection of freedom of expression. ”The protection of freedom of expression and access to information and the safety of journalists must be encouraged and supported by judicial actors, as guardians of freedoms”, he stressed again. 

“We must also be aware that no freedom is absolute and certain limits are imposed on this freedom to freely express one’s ideas”, reminded Mr. Coulibaly, referring to the necessary restrictions provided for by law. under the control of the judge” such that ”incitement to discrimination or violence cannot be considered as the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression. 

”In West Africa, Senegal is the first country to benefit from the initiative for judges with the organization of this workshop which marks the beginning of a series to be organized across the country, as well as a collaboration with the Judicial Training Center for better promotion of international standards on the freedom and safety of journalists”, declared, for his part, the Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for West Africa- Sahel, Dr. Dimitri Sanga.

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