Beyond Human Rights Ideology: Struggles for Freedom of Expression in Africa

  • Jane Duncan
Part of the Contemporary African Political Economy book series (CONTAPE)


This chapter examines the discourse on human rights in Africa, especially in relation to freedom of expression. With a focus on the distinction between negative and positive freedom, it argues for a radical re-definition of this right that moves beyond its Western liberal emphasis on freedom from censorship (especially by government), and includes positive duties on power-holders to promote equality of access to the means of communication. Freedom of expression must also be conceptualized as a right that belongs to society generally, and one that is practiced by collectives, and not just the media or individuals. Such redefinitions, it is argued, will allow theoreticians and activists to move beyond what Issa Shivji has termed “human rights ideology ,” and toward a right that is more firmly rooted in African realities.


  1. Alexander, Larry. 2005. Is There a Right of Freedom of Expression? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amnesty International. 2006. Amnesty International Report on the State of the World’s Human Rights. London: Amnesty International Publications.Google Scholar
  3. Ballard, Richard, Adam Habib, and Imraan Valodia. 2006. Voices of Protest: Social Movements in Post-apartheid South Africa. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu Natal Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bornman, Elirea. 2012. “The Mobile Phone in Africa: Has It Become a Highway to the Information Society or Not?” Contemporary Educational Technology 3 (4): 278–92.Google Scholar
  5. Buchanan, Allen, and David Golove. 2004. “Philosophy of International Law.” In Oxford Handbook of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law, edited by Jules L. Coleman, Kenneth E. Himma, and Scott J. Shapiro, 868–934. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Buechler, Steven M. 1995. “New Social Movement Theories.” The Sociological Quarterly 36 (3): 441–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Calandro, Enrico, Christoph Stork, and Alison Gillwald. 2014. “Internet Going Mobile: Internet Access and Usage in Eleven African Countries.” April 23. Research ICT Africa Presentation.Google Scholar
  8. Cheru, F. 1996. “New Social Movements, Democratic Struggles and Human Rights in Africa.” In Globalization: Critical Reflections, edited by J. Mittelman, 145–64. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  9. Chomsky, Noam. 1992. Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. Film.
  10. della Porta, Donatella. 1997. “The Policing of Protest: Repression, Bargaining, and the Fate of Social Movements.” African Studies 56 (1): 97–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duncan, Jane. 2006. “Media Freedom or Freedom of Expression? Challenges Facing Freedom of Expression Organisations in SADC.” Openspace Journal 1 (5): 53–57.Google Scholar
  12. Duncan, Jane, and Mandla Seleoane. 1998. Media and Democracy in South Africa. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council and the Freedom of Expression Institute.Google Scholar
  13. Dwyer, P. 2006. “The Concerned Citizen’s Forum: A Fight within a Fight.” In Voices of Protest: Social Movements in Post-apartheid South Africa, edited by Richard Ballard, Adam Habib, and Imraan Voladia, 89–110. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.Google Scholar
  14. Escobar, Edward J. 1993. “The Dialectic of Repression: The Los Angeles Police Department and the Chicago Movement, 1968–1971.” Journal of American History 79 (4): 1483–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fanon, Frantz. 1963. The Wretched of the Earth. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  16. Fitzgerald, Kathleen J., and Diane M. Rodgers. 2000. “Radical Social Movement Organizations: A Theoretical Model.” The Sociological Quarterly 41 (4): 573–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Green, Philip. 1993. “Democracy as a Contested Idea.” In Democracy, edited Philip Green. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hargreaves, Robert. 2002. The First Freedom: A History of Free Speech. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing.Google Scholar
  19. Herman, Edward S., and Noam Chomsky. 1988. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  20. Hoffman, David. 2006. “World Bank Should Link Loans to Press Freedom.” International Herald Tribune, April 5.
  21. Human Rights Watch. World Report 2006. New York: Human Rights Watch.
  22. Khawaja, Marwan. 1993. “Repression and Popular Collective Action: Evidence from the West Bank.” Sociological Forum 8 (1): 47–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mabota, Maria A. 2006. “Freedom of Expression in Mozambique.” In There Shall be Freedom of Expression: Deliberations of the International Conference on Support for Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom, edited by John Mukela, 26–31. Maputo: NSJ Trust, Embassy of Sweden and Royal Norwegian Embassy.Google Scholar
  24. Mamdani, Mahmood. 1990. “Uganda: Contradictions of the IMF Programme and Perspective.” Development and Change 21 (3): 427–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mamdani, Mahmood. 1991. “A Response to Critics.” Development and Change 22 (2): 351–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mark, K. 1978. The Marx-Engels Reader. Norton: New York.Google Scholar
  27. Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1845. The German Ideology: Feuerbach: Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlooks.
  28. McChesney, Robert W. 2003. “The FCC’s Big Grab: Making Media Monopoly Part of the Constitution.” Counterpunch, May 16.
  29. McKinley, Dale, and Ahmed Veriava. 2005. Arresting Dissent: State Repression and Post-apartheid Social Movements. Violence and Transition Project. Johannesburg: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.Google Scholar
  30. McLeod, Kembrew. 2005. Freedom of Expression: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  31. Media Institute of Southern Africa. 2005. “So This Is Democracy? State of Media Freedom in Southern Africa.”
  32. Mehra, Achal. 1986. Free Flow of Information: A New Paradigm. Westport: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  33. Minnie, Jeanette. 2004. Outside the Ballot Box: Preconditions for Elections in Southern Africa. Windhoek: Media Institute for Southern Africa.Google Scholar
  34. Murdock, Graham, and Peter Golding. 1979. "Capitalism, Communication and Class Relations." In Mass Communication and Society, edited by James Curran, Michael Gurevitch, and Janet Woollacott, 12–43. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. ———. 2005. “Culture, Communication and Political Economy.” In Mass Media and Society (4th ed.), edited by Michael Gurevitch and James Curran, 60–81. London: Hodder Arnold.Google Scholar
  36. National Assembly of South Africa. 2007. Written Reply to Question No. 1834, from Ms. P. De Lille (ID). (Internal Question Paper No. 43/2007, 9 November 2007).Google Scholar
  37. Nyamnjoh, Francis B. 2004. “Global and Local Trends in Media Ownership and Control: Implications for Cultural Creativity.” In Situating Globality: African Agency in the Appropriation of Global Culture, edited by Wim van Binsbergen and Rijk van Dijk, 57–89. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  38. Okoth-Ogenda, Hastings W.O. 1991. “Constitutions Without Constitutionalism: Reflections on an African Political Paradox.” In State and Constitutionalism: An African Debate on Democracy, edited by Issa G. Shivji, 3–25. Harare: SAPES Books.Google Scholar
  39. Osha, S. 2006. “Birth of the Ogoni Protest Movement.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 41 (1–2): 13–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Prempeh, E.O.K. 2004. “Anti-Globalization Forces, the Politics of Resistance, and Africa.” Journal of Black Studies 34 (4): 580–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Prempeh, E.O.K. 2006. Against Global Capitalism: African Social Movements Confront Neoliberal Globalization. Hampshire and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
  42. Research & Education in Development (RED), and Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI). 2005. Establishing a Historical Record of Violations of the Regulation of Gatherings Act & the Right to Freedom of Assembly Amongst Social Movements in Johannesburg.
  43. Roy, Arundhati. 2003. “The Loneliness of Noam Chomsky.” The Hindu, August 24.
  44. Saul, John S. 2005. The Next Liberation Struggle: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in Southern Africa. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu–Natal Centre for Civil Society.Google Scholar
  45. Schiller, Herbert I. 1979. “Genesis of the Free Flow of Information Principle.” In Communication and Class Struggle, edited by Armand Mattelart and Seth Siegelaub. New York: International Mass Media Research.Google Scholar
  46. Shivji, Issa. 1989. The Concept of Human Rights in Africa. Dakar: Codesria.Google Scholar
  47. ———. 2001. “The Life & Times of Babu: The Age of Revolution & Liberation.” Law, Social Justice & Global Development (2).
  48. ———. 2003. “The Struggle for Democracy.” Unpublished Paper.
  49. Smith, David, and Luc Torres. 2006. “Timeline: A History of Free Speech.” The Guardian, February 10.
  50. Tarrow, Sidney G. 1998. Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Touraine, Alain. 1985. “An Introduction to the Study of Social Movements.” Social Research 52 (4): 749–87.Google Scholar
  52. Ungar, Sanford. 1990. “The Role of Free Press in Strengthening Democracy.” In Democracy and the Mass Media, edited by Judith Lichtenberg, 368–98. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. United Nations (UN). 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  54. United States (US). 1787. The United States Constitution.
  55. United States (US). 1791. Amendment I. The United States Constitution.
  56. Weiss, Peter. 1994. “The Human Rights of the Underclass.” In Beyond Bretton Woods: Alternatives to the Global Economic Order, edited by John Cavanagh, Daphne Wysham, and Marcos Arruda, 29–38. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  57. Williams, Granville. 2001. “The Media Still Needs Ownership Regulations.” openDemocracy, December 4.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane Duncan
    • 1
  1. 1.University of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations