Picture: Noni Mokati/Independent Media

Johannesburg – Human rights defenders across Africa and the world continue to be harassed and intimidated for standing up for what is right. This is according to Amnesty International Southern Africa regional director Deprose Muchena. 

Speaking at the launch of the global campaign by Amnesty International at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton on Tuesday, Muchena said Human Rights defenders, particularly journalists have nowhere to run as a result unjust actions carried out by Authoritarian leaders.

"Journalists are currently under scrutiny and not only in Africa but in China as well. Journalists are being killed for writing stories about injustices," he said.

He used the examples such as Zimbabwean activist and pastor Ivan Mawarire, the founder of #ThisFlag, who Muchena said, faces trumped-up charges of sedition and insulting the the national flag of Zimbabwe and journalists in Botswana who have death threats against them for taking pictures of the a house belonging to the President. It is reported that up to 281 people were killed globally for defending Human Rights in 2016.

"The launch of this campaign is to push back against these contrived attacks. What can be done is to tackle human rights at an individual level. Civil society through student movements, church organisations need to come on board. There should never be a moment in the history of society where our people feel oppressed. Human rights activism needs to outlives dictatorship in Africa," Muchane said.

He also highlighted that the campaign was to remember the life and legacy of former President Nelson Mandela who he said was an avid advocate for human rights. He used the launch to hand over a letter that was penned by Mandela in 1962 to Amnesty International back to his Foundation.

Meanwhile, through a Dialogue convened by journalist and Amnesty International Southern African deputy director of campaigns Belinda Moses, panelists such as human rights lawyer Caroline James of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and Melinda Strydom of the African Network of Centres for Investigative Reports said it was imperative that journalists received all the necessary support, especially under the new phenomenon of fake news. 

The Dialogue also included Lesotho journalist Keiso Mohloboli who spoke up on the high level of scrutiny journalists in her country face.

Politics and Development Hub