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August 30 2017


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In August 2017, the first two regional “Artwatch Africa Response” training workshops for East African and West African lawyers took place in Nairobi (2 - 4 August 2017, GoDown Arts Centre) and Lagos (8 - 10 August 2017, Freedom Park). The workshops were organised within the framework of the Artwatch Africa project in order to improve the legal and judicial protection of and support for artists in Africa, and were led by Oludayo Fagbemi from the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA).

Over the course of three days, the invited participants looked at enforcement mechanisms for artists rights and safety, with particular focus on the African Commission on Human and People's Rights and the the African Court on Human and People's Rights. Presentations were made on the following topics and all related materials and resources were shared with participants:

- Introduction to Human Rights Law: categories of rights, rights and duties, sources of human rights law, restrictions on rights and terminology
- Legal Protection for Freedom of Cultural Expression and Religion
- Introduction to Specific Procedures for Presenting Communication at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights
-  Guidelines on litigating before the ECOWAS Court
- Submitting Human Rights Violations to the UNESCO’s Committee
- Guidelines on drafting arguments and remedies, as well as submitting changes to laws and policies in African countries where repression of artistic freedom exists

The participants used role play to establish a mock court session in order to practically demonstrate the lessons learned. Some of the lawyer participants are also artists in their own right which drives home the need for a response network of this kind to empower the artists and lawyers alike to prevent human rights violations.

Nairobi | 2 - 4 August 2017, GoDown Arts Centre

The first Artwatch Africa Response training workshop was held in East Africa and attended by lawyers from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Egypt. The session was held in Nairobi, one of Arterial Network’s training hubs for the East African region, with the collaboration of the GoDown Arts Centre. During the training, the participants were introduced to the various limits on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly, and instructed how to defend any violations of these fundamental rights.

While it is true that many rules exist within a country, society, or community (some even informal or written with malintent), each limit must be defined by a law with a specific objective in legal terms. To illustrate this, different cases were examined, such as cases of defamation against public or political figures, whilst also highlighting that defamation is not a criminal offense according to international law.

Since the establishment of the Artwatch Africa project, multiple exchanges with artists and cultural operators have contributed to a better understanding of the current system in place, and its various failings. The participants in the Artwatch Africa Response training were able to discuss various remedies based on real case studies and drawing from their own expertise, looking at cases at all levels - national, regional and international.

A visit to the GoDown Arts Centre and discussions with artists associated with the centre also gave the lawyer participants a better understanding of the issues related to freedom of artistic expression in the context of Kenya, such as the role of artists in society and the protection of artists who are also activists.

Lagos | 8 - 10 August 2017, Freedom Park

In Nigeria, the Artwatch Africa Response workshop was locally coordinated by Ayodele Ganiu, CORA/ Arterial Network Nigeria’s National Coordinator and chaired by Jahman Anikulapo, Arterial Network West Africa Representative.

The choice of Freedom Park as the venue for the Artwatch Africa Response Workshop in Lagos was both symbolic and historic. Freedom Park is the memorial site of the old Broad Street Prison where Nigerians were incarcerated for their self expression and social commentary. Prominent nationalists, including Professor Wole Soyinka - Nigeria's foremost writer, playwright, activist and Africa's first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, served their jail terms at Her Majesty's Prison (popularly known then as Broad Street Prison) during the fight for independence. During the course of the workshop, the designer of Freedom Park and board member of CORA/ Arterial Network Nigeria, Arch Theo Lawson, took time to lead the participants on a tour of the park to view historic sites, objects and images reflecting great Nigerians who have fought for their rights to freedom of expression.

In addition to the primary presentations on the themes mentioned above, another important presentation was made by Makinde Adeniran, chairman of the National Association of Nigeria Theater Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) - Lagos Chapter who joined the workshop to discuss the proposed artist welfare legislation as a fundamental human right.

The workshop was formally brought to a close with the presentation of certificates to participants who successfully completed the programme. In addition to the West African Representative of Arterial Network, Jahman Anikulapo who represented the continental Chairperson Mamou Daffe, and the facilitator Oludayo Fagbemi (representing IHRDA), the ceremony was attended by CORA/ Arterial Network Nigeria board members Toyin Akinosho (Secretary General), Arch Theo Lawson (CEO, Freedom Park) and Iyabo Aboaba (Chief Operating Officer, Freedom Park). As part of the wrap up, Caleb Adebayo (a participant of the workshop who is both a lawyer and an acclaimed poet) entertained the gathering with a spoken word poetry performance.

1, 3, 4 & 5 -
Arterial Network
2 - Simon Nguye
7 & 8 - Taiwo Olusola Johnson 
6 & 9 - Arterial Network Nigeria

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