Attacks on the Press in 2012

Attacks on the Press   |   Uganda

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Uganda

Police assaulted and obstructed numerous journalists covering opposition demonstrations, repeating an abusive pattern set during the previous year’s presidential campaign. Police officials repeatedly professed determination to investigate the attacks but ultimately held no officer publicly accountable. Several journalists began to seek redress in the courts, although no cases had been resolved by late year. President Yoweri Museveni signed the Uganda Communications Act in September. The measure ostensibly merged two regulatory bodies, but it also imposed vague new requirements that broadcasters respect “public morality” and “ethical broadcasting standards.” Press freedom organizations said the law also granted the Information Ministry broad powers to modify broadcast licenses at will.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Togo

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Togo

President Faure Gnassingbé and his allies used the multiple levers of power to dominate the political and media landscapes. Coverage of dissenting political views came under attack from government regulators who censored critical programming, and from security agents who violently obstructed journalists covering protests. Government regulators barred a popular current affairs call-in radio program in July, while continuing their two-year-old ban on another station known for its vernacular political debate program. Street protests against human rights violations and abuses of power flared throughout the year but were violently dispersed by security forces. CPJ documented at least three instances in which security agents or police assaulted journalists covering the demonstrations. Journalists filming or photographing police dispersal tactics were targeted. Ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 2013, Gnassingbé’s ruling majority in the National Assembly passed legislation giving its loyalists control over local polls and vote counting, setting off another round of public protests by the opposition, according to news reports.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Tanzania

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Tanzania

A journalist was killed in the line of duty in September, the first Tanzanian work-related fatality documented by CPJ in the 20 years it has kept detailed records. Police attacked veteran TV reporter Daudi Mwangosi, who was shot point-blank with a tear-gas canister and died at the scene, witnesses said. Mwangosi, of the private Channel 10 station, had confronted officers over the arrest of another journalist during an opposition rally, news reports said. The authorities arrested a junior officer in connection with the killing, but they didn’t pursue at least six other officers thought to be associated with the death, according to a report released by the independent Media Council of Tanzania. The government can use 17 repressive, media-related statutes to crack down on critical coverage. Under the Newspaper Act of 1976, the information ministry indefinitely banned the Swahili-language weekly MwanaHalisi in July on vague charges of sedition and false reporting in unspecified articles. The paper’s chief editor, Jabir Idrissa, said he suspected the publication was targeted for its coverage of a physicians’ strike in the country and the abduction and torture of Steven Ulimboka, a doctor leading the strikers. Reports from MwanaHalisi had suggested the authorities were involved in the attack on Ulimboka, but the government denied the allegations, news reports said.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Somalia

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Somalia

Despite a relatively peaceful presidential election and the government’s continuing control of the capital, Mogadishu, a record number of Somali journalists were killed in 2012. Amid comparative calm in the capital, targeted killings of journalists and political figures continued, most notably in a deadly September blast at a café frequented by reporters and government officials. Given the ouster of Al-Shabaab insurgents from Mogadishu in 2011, the continuing killings raised concern that journalists and others were being targeted by a widening field of politically motivated antagonists. Though most fatalities occurred in the capital, unknown gunmen killed two journalists in separate attacks in Galkayo, a commercial hub of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Three radio stations were forced to close during the year, two on the orders of Al-Shabaab and one at the directive of Puntland officials. Pervasive insecurity has forced dozens of Somali journalists to flee into exile in the last five years, the highest number in the world. Although peaceful in comparison to the rest of the country, the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland had a high number of journalist detentions.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Rwanda

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Rwanda

President Paul Kagame used his August address before the East African Community Media Summit to cast the domestic press “as an important partner in our country’s development” while accusing Western journalists of misrepresentation that “derails our progress or even fuels conflict.” The dual theme--calling on domestic journalists to advance a government agenda while depicting international news media as adversaries--has become common among regional leaders. But critical journalists are seen as foes, not partners, by Kagame’s government. The authorities have engaged in several years of aggressive harassment of critical journalists, forcing many into exile, landing some in prison, and sowing self-censorship among the rest. CPJ identified three imprisoned journalists when it conducted its annual worldwide survey on December 1, and at least two others who were detained for significant periods during the year. Red lines appeared to be easily crossed and harshly punished: The authorities detained a radio presenter for nearly 100 days after the journalist mistakenly used a phrase deemed offensive to survivors of the 1994 genocide. Although Kagame spoke in support of media reform at the summit, three bills backed by the Rwandan press remained stalled in parliament. The bills would provide access to government information, create a media ombudsman independent of the government, and establish a public broadcaster.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Nigeria

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Nigeria

President Goodluck Jonathan struggled to maintain stability as Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group based in northern Nigeria, carried out a wave of terrorist attacks against churches, government buildings, and, for the first time, news outlets. In April, the group staged coordinated attacks on offices of three newspapers in two cities, and threatened reprisals against 14 news outlets it accused of misrepresenting its activities. The threats forced many journalists to relocate from northern Nigeria. The press corps also faced persistent harassment at the hands of the government: CPJ documented more than 100 assaults, cases of obstruction, and other anti-press actions by security forces and officials. Jonathan also came under fire for his decision to suspend consumer fuel subsidies, which prompted a nationwide strike and street protests in this top oil-producing nation. Protesters surrounded the studios of the national public broadcaster Nigerian Television Authority and the private Africa Independent Television, two prominent outlets seen as pro-government, to demand more coverage of their concerns. The anger spread to social media with the #OccupyNigeria hashtag trending globally on Twitter.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Mali

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Mali

After an extended period of relative calm and freedom, the Malian press faced severe threats amid a military coup and an armed insurrection. In March, a junta ousted President Amadou Toumani Touré just weeks before his second and final term would have expired. Touré had been the target of public discontent over setbacks suffered by the army in its fight against ethnic Tuareg separatists of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad in Mali's Saharan north. The rebels allied with hard-line Islamist militants to take advantage of the political turmoil after the coup, seizing Timbuktu and other northern cities and towns. Islamist groups imposed draconian censorship on dozens of radio stations, and shut down at least one. Their orders included bans on music and demands that programming feature Quranic recitations, local journalists said. Journalists operating in rebel and Islamist-controlled areas were also subjected to intense intimidation; those in government-controlled areas faced kidnappings, detentions, and assaults.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Syria

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Kenya

In the run-up to the March 2013 elections, tensions ran high among local journalists, who feared a repeat of the violent aftermath of the disputed 2007 vote in which the press was targeted and harassed in connection with news coverage. Several journalists were threatened or attacked throughout 2012 in reprisal for their reporting on official corruption. CPJ found that most of the anti-press episodes took place in Western Kenya. The installation of fiber-optic cable networks drove up the number of Internet users. With its Internet penetration having doubled since 2010, Kenya boasted the highest rate in East Africa. The country also leads East Africa in mobile phone use with 29 million clients, according to International Telecommunication Union data. Kenya continued to be the main regional refuge for journalists fleeing their home countries in fear of attack or imprisonment. Since 2007, at least 52 journalists have resettled in Kenya, but often under extreme hardship.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ethiopia

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Ethiopia

The death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in August in a Belgian hospital brought an end to a 21-year rule characterized by repression of dissent and iron-fisted control of the independent press. His fatal illness was shrouded in secrecy. After Meles disappeared from public view in June, the government played down rumors of his illness and suppressed in-depth domestic reporting. The government also faced rare demonstrations by members of the Muslim community, who protested what they called government interference in their affairs. Security forces violently dispersed the gatherings, cracking down on journalists who reported on them, and forcing three Muslim-oriented newspapers to close. The government drew widespread international condemnation for the convictions of nine Ethiopian journalists on vague and politicized terrorism charges. The journalists, five of them exiles tried in absentia, were handed sentences ranging from eight years to life imprisonment. The government finally freed two Swedish journalists who were imprisoned for 14 months for reporting on separatist Ogaden rebels. Six journalists remained behind bars in late year, including award-winning writer Eskinder Nega.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Eritrea

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Eritrea

CPJ identified Eritrea as the most censored country in the world in 2012. No independent domestic news outlets have been allowed to operate since a widespread September 2001 government crackdown on dissent. The last accredited foreign news reporter was expelled in 2007. State media operate under the rigid control of Information Minister Ali Abdu, who uses intimidation and imprisonment to enforce a government-approved message. The Red Sea nation is the continent’s leading jailer of journalists; the detainees include independent reporters and editors swept up in the 2001 crackdown, along with numerous state media journalists who have somehow violated the government’s strict controls. The detainees are held without charge and in secret locations. President Isaias Afwerki has consistently refused to account for the whereabouts, legal status, or health of the jailed journalists, or even confirm reports that some have died in custody. Fearful state media journalists have fled the country in large numbers. Eritrea has the fifth highest number of exiled journalists in the world, according to CPJ data. In July, the U.N. Human Rights Council unanimously condemned “widespread and systematic violations” and appointed a representative to further investigate abuses, according to news reports.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

2012

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