CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Mohamed Keita

Mohamed Keita is advocacy coordinator for CPJ's Africa Program. Keita has written about independent journalism and development in sub-Saharan Africa for publications including The New York Times and Africa Review, and has appeared on NPR, the BBC, Al-Jazeera, and Radio France Internationale. Keita has also given presentations on press freedom at the World Bank, U.S. State Department, and universities. Follow him on Twitter: @africamedia_CPJ.

2011


Blog   |   Eritrea

Solomon Abera, who voiced end of Eritrean free press, dies

Solomon Abera was once a presenter for state television ERI-TV. (Solomon Abera)

The name Solomon Abera will forever be etched in the collective memory of Eritrea's press corps. On September 18, 2001, as the world focused its attention on the terrorist attacks on the United States, the government of Eritrea borrowed Abera's voice to sound the death knell, on state-controlled airwaves, of the Red Sea nation's independent press. Shortly after Abera read the announcement, the government rounded up leading independent newspaper editors and a dozen ruling-party dissidents calling for democratic reform -- all of whom have disappeared in custody.

Ten years to the day after being handed one of the most chilling news items he ever read on Dimtsi Hafash radio during his 14 years as a reporter, presenter, producer, and commentator, Abera reflected on the experience on our blog.

Today, we learned that Solomon Abera, who lived in exile in Germany after fleeing government censorship and intimidation in 2005, is no more.

December 2, 2011 5:12 PM ET

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Blog   |   Gambia

Gambia VP touts tourism, downplays human rights issues

Gambian Vice-President Isatou Njie-Saidy (AFP)

The Gambia has an image problem: Dubbed the "Smiling Coast of Africa," it is a tourist destination, but its government has one of the region's worst records of human rights abuses. On Tuesday, at an African tourism promotion event in New York City, Gambian Vice-President Isatou Njie-Saidy headed a delegation working toward improving the negative perceptions of the country.

In a discussion with Njie-Saidy after the event, I mentioned to her that an Internet search of the Gambia yields many results about its human right abuses. In response, she shifted the topic to the United States: "Do they tell you about Guantánamo Bay? Seems like a human rights issue," she said. "And, you know, in the Internet, you have a lot of garbage. ... Don't believe everything you read: You have to look in between." She later accused social media of peddling untruths: "Social media is the problem," she said.

September 21, 2011 3:26 PM ET

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Blog   |   Democratic Republic of the Congo

DRC journalists urge ruling party to halt abuse

Marchers urge ruling party to end abuse. (John Bompengo)

An estimated 200 Congolese journalists marched to the National Assembly in Kinshasa on Friday to show their outrage over reports that supporters of incumbent President Joseph Kabila have physically and verbally abused members of the press. 

August 29, 2011 3:12 PM ET

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Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi's journalists and lawyers face intense harassment

Rugurika (CPJ)

It's possible that no journalist in the world has received more court summonses in recent weeks than Editor Bob Rugurika of Burundi's Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), a station founded by CPJ award-winner Alexis Sinduhije.

On Tuesday, for the fifth time since July 18, Rugurika was interrogated by a magistrate in the capital, Bujumbura, about programs aired by his station, according to news reports and CPJ research. The magistrate allegedly asked Rugurika to "correct" a broadcast that pointed out that a 1996 U.N. report had implicated an official involved in the setting up of Burundi's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a massacre, RPA Editor-in-Chief Eric Manirakiza told CPJ.

Blog   |   Togo

Togo journalists protest purported security threats

Togolese journalists at Saturday's protest. (Sylvio Combey)

Dozens of Togolese journalists marched in the capital, Lomé, on Saturday to call attention to reported allegations that government security agents planned to retaliate against critical reporters. The allegations themselves are in dispute--the government called them "fabricated"--but they are set against a recent U.N. report expressing concern over the official use of arbitrary detention and the alleged use of torture.

Blog   |   Guinea

Guinea's censorship order puts RFI in difficult spot

AFP

On Monday, Guinea's state-controlled media regulatory agency imposed a "temporary" ban on media coverage of the July 19 attack on the private residence of President Alpha Condé, silencing private radio and television talk programs in which critical questions were being raised about the episode. In such circumstances, Guinean listeners turn to foreign media outlets such as France's state-funded international broadcaster, Radio France Internationale (RFI), the most popular station in Francophone Africa. With programs such as "Appels Sur L'actualité," a daily news call-in show, RFI is considered by millions of African listeners to be an essential source of news and information. 

July 28, 2011 6:01 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ethiopia

UNHCHR grills Ethiopia on anti-terror law

Ethiopian officials were defiant in the face of U.N. questioning (UN)

This week, the Human Rights Committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights reviewed Ethiopia's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including its press freedom record. Peppered with questions about an indefensible record of abuse--jailing the second largest number of journalists in Africa and leading the continent in Internet censorship--representatives of the Ethiopian government responded with cursory talking points and bold denials in contradiction of the facts.

Blog   |   Senegal

Mission Journal: Politics influence justice in Senegal

President Wade protected a protege accused of orchestrating anti-press attacks. (AFP/Filippo Montegorte)
Senegalese journalists say justice is not on their side when they are victims of abuse by powerful officials or security forces. I met recently in Dakar with journalists targeted with criminal acts in apparent reprisal for their work. In these two high-profile cases, CPJ has found evidence of political influence on the judiciary.

Blog   |   Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, anti-terrorism law chills reporting on security

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's ruling party has designated five groups as terrorist entities. (AFP)

How can an Ethiopian reporter cover the activities of Ethiopia's leading opposition figure, Berhanu Nega, or an attack by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels without risking prosecution and a 20-year prison sentence? Such questions have haunted Ethiopian journalists since a far-reaching anti-terrorism law came into effect in 2009. The law criminalizes any reporting authorities deem to "encourage" or "provide moral support" to groups and causes the government labels as "terrorists."

Blog   |   Rwanda

Rwanda's Kagame and journalist get into Twitter spat

President Paul Kagame is a leader who draws sharply divided opinions--praise from some for rebuilding Rwanda after the 1994 genocide and criticism from others over a record of repression of dissent and the press. On Saturday, a tweet critical of Kagame by British columnist Ian Birrell sparked a heated exchange about press freedom between the two men on the social networking site. 

May 16, 2011 2:29 PM ET

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Blog   |   Cameroon

Cameroon soccer star Samuel Eto'o lashes out at reporter

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o gets a little touchy when reporters question his plays. (AFP)

Journalists: Beware of questioning the performance of Cameroonian international soccer superstar Samuel Eto'o on the field. The act could result in a head butt--as reporter Philippe Boney experienced in 2008--or in rough words, as a Senegalese reporter experienced in a postgame press conference on Saturday. 

March 30, 2011 5:34 PM ET

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Blog   |   South Africa

At NYU, South Africa's Motlanthe defends press policies

Motlanthe at NYU. (CPJ/Mohamed Keita)

On Monday, in a public lecture at New York University, South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe described as irreversible the democratic gains made since the end of apartheid, including the advancement of press freedom. "We have a constitution which guarantees basic human rights such as freedom of association, freedom of the press, and the independent judiciary," he declared. Many in South Africa, however, are not so sure that press freedom's future is secure. 

Blog   |   Gambia

Jammeh to news media: I set limits on press freedom

No sacrifices to the "altar of freedom of the press," says Jammeh. (AFP)

Last week, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh participated in a rare meeting with select members of the West African nation's press corps. Jammeh spoke in favor of access to public information. He announced that he would allow The Standard newspaper to resume publication, five months after the National Intelligence Agency forced its editor, Sheriff Bojang, to halt production. But the president largely lashed out at the Gambian private press and critics of his repressive media policies in the meeting, a tense session that was broadcast on state television. Jammeh, a former army captain who seized power in a 1994 coup, spoke in a harsh and contemptuous tone as he addressed media owners invited to the State House in the capital, Banjul.

March 23, 2011 12:55 PM ET

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Blog   |   Democratic Republic of the Congo

Killer of DRC technician said to wear police uniform

Hardy Kazadi Ilunga was just 21. A technician with the private station Radio-Télévision Mosaïque in the southern Democratic Republic of Congo town of Likasi, he was murdered late Saturday by a gunman apparently wearing a police uniform, according to the Congolese press freedom group OLPA and local journalists. 

March 16, 2011 2:18 PM ET

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Blog   |   Cameroon

Fearing Egypt-style revolt, Cameroon bars Twitter service

"For security reasons, the government of Cameroon requests the suspension of the Twitter sms integration on the network," announced a March 8 tweet by Bouba Kaélé, marketing manager of the Cameroon unit of South Africa-based telecommunications provider MTN. The announcement has since disappeared from Kaélé's Twitter feed, but was memorialized by a handful of Twitter users who retweeted the comment and the Cameroonian daily Le Jour, which printed a story.

March 14, 2011 12:56 PM ET

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Blog   |   Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Zimbabwe

Sub-Saharan Africa censors Mideast protests

A man sets up a satellite dish in Zimbabwe, where state news is severely restricted on the ongoing protests in the Middle East, but where CNN is still accessible. (AP)As news of Middle Eastern and North African protests swirl around the globe, satellite television and the Internet prove vital sources of information for Africans as governments fearful of an informed citizenry and a free press such as in Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and Zimbabwe impose total news blackouts on the developments.

Blog   |   Gabon

In Gabon, faux news draws real censorship

Obame after being "sworn in." The government took it seriously. (AFP)

Last week, Gabon's government-controlled National Communications Council ordered the TV station of opposition leader André Mba Obame off the air for a period of three months. The ruling is without appeal and, typically, this is how authorities in this oil-rich equatorial African state silence critical news outlets. Except that, this time, the "reporting" for which the TV station was forced off the air was not about a real event but rather the staging of a faux presidential swearing-in ceremony.

February 1, 2011 11:18 AM ET

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Blog   |   Ivory Coast

The struggle continues for power, and media, in Ivory Coast

Soldiers guard state television station RTI. (AFP)

In Ivory Coast, the tense post-election dispute between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and rival and self-proclaimed president-elect Alassane Ouattara is a power struggle for control of national institutions--including the sole state media outlet, Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI).

January 10, 2011 6:01 PM ET

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