The right to freedom of expression is enshrined as a cornerstone of democracy. This is because of its intrinsic importance in informing the public and encouraging debate. Inherent in the right to freedom of expression is the notion of access to information and press freedom. Freedom of expression also underpins a range of other rights, thereby enabling the full realisation of fundamental rights. It is by now well-established by the UN and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) that rights, particularly the right to freedom of expression, apply equally online and offline. As set out in the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms:
Everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference.
Everyone has a right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through the Internet and digital technologies and regardless of frontiers.
The exercise of this right should not be subject to any restrictions, except those which are provided by law, pursue a legitimate aim as expressly listed under international human rights law (namely the rights or reputations of others, the protection of national security, or of public order, public health or morals) and are necessary and proportionate in pursuance of a legitimate aim.
The exercise of the right to freedom of expression can, at times, require tolerance from others. As has been explained by the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the right to receive or impart information or ideas is applicable “not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb.”
Indeed, the right extends even where those views are controversial: The corollary of the freedom of expression and its related rights is tolerance by society of different views. Tolerance, of course, does not require approbation of a particular view. In essence, it requires the acceptance of the public airing of disagreements and the refusal to silence unpopular views.
NGO partnerships crucial to overcoming Covid-19 challenges
The National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) released its most recent findings on hunger in South Africa on 17 February 2021. In terms of child hunger, the proportion of households with children who reported a child going hungry at least once during a period of a week rose from 12% in Wave 2 to 16% in Wave 3.*
For children without family members, especially, securing food on a daily basis is a huge challenge. In 2018, the Children’s Institute reported that 55,000 children lived in a total of 33,000 child-only households in South Africa. They also found that close to 70% of children in child-only households live in three of South Africa’s nine provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. Recent statistics regarding Covid-19 related deaths, unemployment, business confidence and our struggling economy show the degree to which the pandemic has increased the number of vulnerable people across the country.
For many orphaned and vulnerable children, getting support from extended family members or being fostered or adopted is not often possible or takes a very long time to come to fruition. In such cases, centres that care for orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC), like iKhaya LikaBaba in Empangeni, play a crucial role in providing for their needs and nurturing their development. Without the support of OVC centres, orphaned and vulnerable children have no safety net to rely on.
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