Policy developments

since 1991

3 May 1991

The Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press is adopted by African editors and journalists. The Windhoek Declaration calls for freedom of information and expression as a “fundamental contribution to the fulfilment of human aspirations”.

1 October 1995

The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information were adopted by a panel of experts in international law, national security and human rights. The Johannesburg Principles have been endorsed by the UN Committee on Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

3 May 2001

The African Charter on Broadcasting was adopted by participants at a 2001 UNESCO conference in Windhoek to mark the 10th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration. While the Windhoek Declaration focuses mainly on the print media, the African Charter on Broadcasting focuses on the broadcast media.


The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa was adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a body established under the auspices of the African Union.

12 December 2003

The WSIS Geneva Principles were at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held by the UN in conjunction with the International Telecommunications Union. While the WSIS Geneva Principles mainly covers issues concerning universal access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), they also contain some important statements on the media more generally.


The African Media Barometer identifies and analyses the shortcomings and best practices in the legal as well as practical media environment of different African countries. Using a variety of African documents as a benchmark, the AMB can serve as a tool to lobby for media reform.


UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communications published a document entitled ‘Media Development Indicators: A Framework for Assessing Media Development’.

24 November 2010

Resolution 169 on Repealing Criminal Defamation Laws in Africa was adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

19 September 2011

The African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) Declaration is adopted by the African Union (AU) representatives, and media and civil society organisations at the conclusion of the Pan-African Conference on Access to Information (PACAI), at Cape Town, South Africa. A number of the Namibian civil society and media organisations go on to establish ACTION Namibia in 2012 and are signatories to the APAI.

25 February 2013

Model Law on Access to Information for Africa was adopted by African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

16 May 2013

The Pan African Platform adopts the Midrand Declaration on Press Freedom in Africa, calling on – amongst others, for member states to use the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Model Law on Access to Information in adopting or reviewing access to information laws.

12 June 2013

The Tshwane Principles on National Security and the Right to Information address the question of how to ensure public access to government information without jeopardizing legitimate efforts to protect people from national security threats.

18 December 2013

The United Nations General Assembly adopts Resolution A/RES/68/163 at its 68th session proclaiming 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ (IDEI). The Resolution urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity.

27 June 2014

The African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection was drafted to establish a ‘credible framework for cybersecurity in Africa through organisation of electronic transactions, protection of personal data, promotion of cyber security, e-governance and combating cybercrime.

5 December 2014

The African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights delivered a landmark judgment when it ruled that Burkina Faso was in violation of Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and article 66(2) (c) of the revised ECOWAS Treaty. The Court ordered Burkina Faso to change its criminal defamation laws.

September 2015

The African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms was developed by members of the African Declaration group to promote human rights, standards and principles of openness in internet policy formulation on the continent.

10 November 2015

The Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections in Africa were adopted by the African Commission during its 61st Ordinary Session. The guidelines address the absence of a regional standard on access to information and elections as a means of guaranteeing the credibility of elections and the overall strengthening of democratic governance in Africa.

17 November 2015

The 38th Session of the UNESCO General Conference adopted Resolution 38 C/70 declaring 28 September as International Day for Universal Access to Information.

November 2019

The adoption by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) of the revised Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa during its 65th Ordinary Session is seen as a landmark development that elaborates Article 9 of the ACHPR.

25 June 2020

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court issued a pivotal decision for the right of freedom of expression in Togo and other West African States. Access to the internet has to be protected under the law, the court ruled, and by shutting it down during the anti-government protests in 2017, the Togolese government violated human rights.