CIVIL SOCIETY WATCH 3-9 MAY 2021

This week in civil society: Keeping the press, police and Covid-19 vaccines accessible

By Christi Nortier 3 May 2021

Major international civil society organisations will turn their attention and resources to protecting the free press. (Photo: cnn.com/Wikipedia)

This week, major international civil society organisations will turn their attention and resources to protecting the free press. In South Africa, the ethics of the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out will be discussed, as will a framework for a human rights-based approach to policing.

In the lead-up to World Press Freedom Day on Monday, 3 May, Amnesty International has been gathering messages of support for the people of Myanmar. The country’s military shut down the internet months ago, but local news publications have kept information flowing using radio and satellite. 

Amnesty International will broadcast messages of support sent from around the world “to tell the people of Myanmar we have not forgotten about them”. Use the hashtag #MyanmarNeverSilenced on social media to submit your message.

Unesco will mark the day by recommitting to the Windhoek Declaration and hosting discussions on information as a public good. Register here for the day of debate featuring some of the world’s leading journalists, academics and activists. 

Also on Monday, the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network is holding a picket and press conference outside the Mozambican embassy in Pretoria to draw attention to corruption in that country and to demand that Manuel Chang, the former finance minister of Mozambique who has been held in South Africa since 2018, be extradited to the US to face charges.

The rest of the week…

On Tuesday, 4 May at noon the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation is holding an important webinar, Blood Clots and Covid Vaccines: What’s the Story? Speakers include Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, one of the principal investigators in the Sisonke trial, and Associate Professor Jonny Peter, head of Allergology and Clinical Immunology at Groote Schuur hospital. Find more information here.

Continuing on the theme of vaccines, later on Tuesday, 4 May at 3.30pm CEST, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is co-hosting a high-level dialogue on the TRIPS Waiver proposal co-sponsored by 60 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), its motivations and the status of discussions at the WTO, and will unpack the opposition the proposal faces in the organisation from a handful of developed countries.  The speakers include Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter, South African ambassador and permanent representative at the WTO, and Brajendra Navnit, India’s ambassador and permanent representative at the WTO. To participate you can register in advance here.

On Thursday, 6 May, the annual Ethics Alive Seminar will take place online. It is hosted by the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics at Wits University. 

This year, the ethics of South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine roll-out will be under the spotlight. Maverick Citizen editor Mark Heywood will be on a panel with Professor Barry Shoub, adviser to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Covid-19 vaccines, and Professor Charles Wiysonge, director of Cochrane South Africa, a non-profit that surveys all available evidence on a health issue and publishes comprehensive reviews to be used by policymakers and health professionals. 

Tune into the discussion here at 6pm.

On Friday, 7 May, “corruption in uniform” will be discussed during a webinar centred on police brutality in South Africa. Themba Masuku of the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, Professor Jacklyn Cock from Wits University and Melusi Ncala of Corruption Watch will discuss the need for a human rights-based approach to policing. Join the discussion here at 11am. DM/MC

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"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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