The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has placed the media at the centre of its operations, “it is therefore developing a human rights sensitive media to ensure that it discharges a mission of public service.
“I name it the administration of justice. Public service institution requires media visibility not only for the evident purpose of building awareness among the citizenry but foremost to meet the needs of accountability.
“It is important that the African Court delivers justice to the litigants before it but it is even of a more critical importance that the greater public is informed about whether and how the Court is doing so,” Lady Justice Imani D. Aboud African Court President stated.
Opening a three-day African Court Media Training for Senior Editors and Journalists in Dar es Salaam, the African Court President noted that it had rolled-out modalities to strengthening initiatives such as the media training.
“The African Court and the media are natural partners. Both institutions share the mandate of acting as watchdogs to public governance albeit through different means and processes.
“While the African Court undertakes governance oversight through judicial supervision of human rights protection, the media play the same role by shedding light on governance practices and ensuring that they keep the public abreast on how their representatives perform and whether they are discharging their functions in accordance with various laws and policies,” she stated.
Lady Justice Aboud noted that the African Court media training also aims at refining human rights communication through specialization.
“For the media to effectively play their role of human rights governance watch dogs, they ought to be trained to deal with the specialized and peculiar area of human rights, its litigation, adjudication, implementation and impact.
“Human right stories significantly differ from just any media topic. They target various stakeholders including citizens, litigants, civil society organizations, lawyers, judges, and also governments.
“In this respect, it is paramount to lay emphasis on the role that States play through regional human rights protection mechanisms such as the African Court,” she noted.
The African Court President noted that the role of media therefore becomes of a great importance as the Court celebrates the 15th anniversary of its operation and marks the beginning of a renewed approach to engagement with States as it takes the lead in its reforms in an era of States disengagement.
Dr Robert Eno, African Court Registrar noted that the objective of training was to establish within the continent, a special pool of skilful and knowledge-based journalists willing to publicize the work of the Court in the protection of human rights.
He said the training also seeks to enhance professional skills on how to report African Court activities for improved coverage, create public awareness and understanding.
“Bolster a pool of Journalists to be called “Media Champions of the African Court” who would be tasked to consistently raise awareness, create and improve a better understanding of the Court to the public and encourage ratifications and declarations.
The African Court Registrar said the Core Journalists group would also act as pressure group on implementation of African Court’s Judgments; help in building a network of professional journalists/editors that promote the exchange of experience.
Dr Eno said the training also focused on the development of senior journalists and editors who could act as future mentors for younger journalists interested in the work of the African Court.
It forms part of the African Court’s Communication Strategy to ensure that Information and Communication policy forms part of its comprehensive strategy and must be placed at the heart of its work and not as an add-on to its activities.