The report focused on the content of the right to freedom of expression and assessed restrictions to the right. The first session assessed the international human rights framework on the right to freedom of expression as set out in international treaties and other appropriate resources to distil the key elements of the right. While the second session looked at the legal position on the circumstances under which the right to freedom of expression may be limited. Session three explored the key case studies across Southern Africa that raised serious concerns about existing or prospective laws that would likely stifle the right to freedom of expression. The last session used a forward-looking approach to consider what strategies can be used to safeguard the right to freedom of expression and set out recommendations for different stakeholder groups, including state and Private Sector Actors. Some of the commendations include: States should expressly recognise in their domestic frameworks that the right to freedom of expression – as contained in constitutional, regional and international human rights frameworks – applies equally both on- and offline; States should not engage in or condone any disruption of access to the internet and other digital technologies for segments of the public or an entire population; Private sector actors, including ISPs and social media platforms, should not impose content filtering systems that are not end-user controlled; Private sector actors should ensure that products designed to facilitate end-user filtering are accompanied by clear information to end-users about how they work and their potential pitfalls in terms of over-inclusive filtering among others.
The report did not cover all the laws in the respective countries in Southern Africa. Instead, it identified those laws that are seen to be of most concern in the present time, taking into account the country's political, social, and economic landscape.
It identified the key trends and recommendations for states, private sector actors and civil society to consider in developing laws, policies and measures that impact the right to freedom of expression.
The need for this report was identified at a meeting of the Southern African members of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (AfDec) Coalition. It was recognised that while the right to freedom of expression is firmly entrenched at the domestic, regional and international levels, the realisation of this right remains a struggle in practice, particularly in the digital era.
African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Coalition, Mapping and Analysis of Privacy Laws and Policies in Africa: Summary Report. 2020. https://www.apc.org/sites/default/files/files/struggle-foe-southafrica.pdf