The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has opened a three-day regional training workshop for judges on freedom of expression, artificial intelligence, and the rule of law.
The training being held in Tema has 30 judges and magistrates from Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia participating.
It is a follow-up to the 2019 Regional Workshop for Supreme Court’s Judges of ECOWAS countries as well as the regional Training of Trainers workshop for judges on freedom of expression held in Nairobi in December 2021, and seeks to build the capacity of the judiciary to strengthen the protection of freedom of expression while at the same time making national legal frameworks evolve.
As part of its objectives, the training aimed at strengthening the skills of participating judges in regional, continental, and international jurisprudence on freedom of expression, promoting good judicial practices in the area of freedom of expression, and sensitising them on the benefits of AI as well as potential human rights infringements by AI systems.
Mr. Edmond Moukala, the Director, UNESCO Accra Office, reminded the judges that when freedom of speech and expression start to collapse, other freedoms could suffer the same fate, adding that freedom of expression and the safety of journalists were serious areas that demanded the attention of duty bearers, arbitration authorities, and the security services.
Mr. Moukala said judges had a distinctive role in building a safe environment for journalists to have justice and by guaranteeing that international laws on justice are respected in national decisions, public freedom of expression, and the safety of journalists.
He said that as part of the global mandate of UNESCO to advance fundamental freedom, it found it critical to build the capacity of the judiciary to prevent indiscriminate actions against freedom of expression, hence its judges initiative 10 years ago.
“Our region is going through difficult times, and citizens are losing hope in our democratic institutions at large. You must therefore steadfastly protect our freedom as interpretors of the law and our country’s norms and practices. You are all to uphold one without downplaying the other,” he charged them.
Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the Minister for Information, said the safety of journalists had gained global attention, and various jurisdictions were factoring in their own strategies and solutions to confront these challenges.
Mr. Nkrumah said in Ghana in collaboration with UNESCO, rolled out the ‘Coordinated Mechanisms for the Safety of Journalists’ about two years ago.
He said the programme aimed at education and advocacy for the safety of journalists, the need to investigate and validate reports of attacks by journalists or media houses.
It also seeks to create regular engagement with state actors, including prosecutors and the judiciary, to hold them accountable for the matters that were reported or brought before them, as well as annually reporting on the kind of progress that we are making.
He called on prosecutors to profess the right kind of charges against persons who attack journalists and media houses.
He said the public was of the view that often the kind of charges that were brought to bear on these persons were weak.
Justice Omoro Tanko Amadu, the Director, Judicial Training Institute, representing the Chief Justice, cautioned media practitioners against yellow journalism, explaining that doing so frustrated the processes put in place by the constitution and other frameworks to ensure freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.
Justice Amadu, however, said that there was no justification for anybody to attack journalists, even if they offended them, and therefore urged such persons to use the law courts to seek justice instead of choosing to attack the media.