Speaking Freely : Nompilo Simanje


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Nompilo Simanje is a lawyer by profession and is the Africa Advocacy and Partnerships Lead at the International Press Institute. She leads the IPI Africa Program which monitors and collects data on press freedom threats and violations across the continent, including threats to journalists’ safety and gendered attacks against journalists both online and offline to inform evidence-based advocacy. Nompilo is an expert on the intersection of technology, the law, and human rights. She has years of experience in advocacy and capacity building aimed at promoting media freedom, freedom of expression, access to information, and the right to privacy. She also currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise. Simanje is an alumnus of the Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program and the US State Department IVLP Program on Promoting Cybersecurity.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.*

York: What does free expression mean to you? 

For me, free expression or free speech is the capacity for one to be able to communicate their views and their opinions without any fear or without thinking that there might be some reprisals or repercussions for freely engaging on any conversation or any issue which might be personal, but also even on any issue of public interest. 

What are some of the qualities that have made you passionate about free speech?

Being someone who works in the civil society sector, I think when I look at free speech and free expression, I view it as an avenue for the realization of several other rights. One key thing for me is that free expression encourages interactive dialogue, it encourages public dialogue, which is very important. Especially for democracy, but also for transparency and accountability. Being based in Africa, we are always having conversations around corruption, around accountability by government actors and public officials. And I feel that free expression is a vehicle for that, because it allows people to be able to question those that hold power and to criticize cert

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