By Benedict Nzioki
Lohé Issa Konaté, a journalist who was imprisoned for a year, and whose newspaper was shut down for making allegations of corruption against a prosecutor in Burkina Faso has received relief from the African Court. Burkina Faso has been reprimanded.
In a landmark decision in December 2014, the African Court held that Mr. Konaté’s imprisonment for defamation violated the right to freedom of expression in Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and Article 66(2)(c) of the Economic Community of West African States Treaty (ECOWAS Treaty), ordering Burkina Faso to revise its law to be consistent with the Charter, and to pay compensation to Mr. Konaté. The exact amount of compensation owed to Mr. Konaté was deferred to a second phase of the proceedings.
The second phase order was delivered earlier this month on 3 June 2016. The Court ordered Burkina Faso to pay CFA35 million (US $75,000) in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages to Mr. Konate. This is the largest individual award the Court has made to date. In addition, the Court ordered Burkina Faso to publish a summary of the judgment in the National Gazette and on the national website within six months of the order. The National Transitional Council of Burkina Faso revised its laws in September 2015.
“This ruling is not only an important victory for Mr. Konaté personally, but also marks another significant step toward recognizing that a journalist exercising the right to freedom of expression should not be subject to criminal sanction except in very limited circumstances,” said Steven Finizio, counsel for Mr. Konaté.
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