CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Tom Rhodes

Tom Rhodes is CPJ's East Africa representative, based in Nairobi. Rhodes is a founder of southern Sudan’s first independent newspaper. Follow him on Twitter: @africamedia_CPJ

2010


Blog   |   Kenya

Kenyan radio station manager wanted at The Hague

Post-election violence killed some 1,200 people in Kenya after 2007 elections, when opposition supporters accused incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and his supporters of election rigging. (Reuters)

Kenyan journalists assumed senior politicians from the ruling party and opposition would be singled out for inciting the public to kill after the 2007 presidential elections--but they were shocked to find out that one of their own has been named.  

December 23, 2010 10:49 AM ET

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Blog   |   Burundi

The good times are gone for Burundi's press

'The media is now considered part of the opposition,' a civil society leader told CPJ. Seen here is 'opposition' station Radio Publique Africaine, in Bujumbura. (CPJ)After 2006, Burundi's government and media relations seemed promising. The airwaves had been open to private broadcasters for years; the president held frequent press conferences, and the government commended the unified press for its professional 2010 pre-election coverage. "The president had organized an open dialogue with the press before the elections," Information Minister Concilie Nibigira told CPJ. "It is the only country I know who would hold regular meetings with the media." 

Blog   |   Uganda

Uganda lifts ban on CBS, staff celebrates with caution

Full, normal broadcasting of the Ugandan Central Broadcasting Service (CBS)--owned by Uganda's powerful traditional Buganda kingdom--resumed Monday after nearly 14 months of silence. While CBS staff welcomed their return to work, many recounted a tough year and questioned the nature of the station's re-opening. 

November 2, 2010 11:26 AM ET

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Blog   |   Kenya

Kenyan journalist's murder case postponed again

Francis Nyaruri was murdered in 2009. (CPJ/Courtesy Josephine Kwamboka)

Kenyan journalist Francis Nyaruri went missing on January 16, 2009 after writing a series of articles for The Weekly Citizen about corruption and malpractice by local police and civil servants. Thirteen days later, his bound and decapitated body was found near his hometown of Nyamira, northwest of the capital city of Nairobi. Twenty-two months after the murder, the outcome of his bereaved family and friends' quest for justice appears uncertain.

October 29, 2010 2:08 PM ET

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Blog   |   Tanzania

Government threatens press in pre-election Tanzania

Incumbent Tanzanian President Jakaya Kiketwe during rally in September. (AP)

As the October 31 national elections draw near, Tanzania's media is in a frenzy trying to cover the close race between the two leading presidential candidates. But government threats and draconian media laws may be getting in the way of objective coverage.

Blog   |   Rwanda

Censored in Rwanda, editors work from exile

The editors of Rwanda's once-leading newspaper now publish from exile. (CPJ)
Though it has been a dark year for Rwanda's press, it has also been a year of resistance and turning to a new sort of reporting--from exile.

Ever since Rwandan authorities began cracking down on the nation's independent press before the presidential elections in August, the space for critical reporting has been dissipating.

Blog   |   Uganda

Ugandan station still closed, an ill omen for election

Former CBS journalists Ndiwalana Kiwanuka, left, Richard Wasswa and Joesph Kafumbe. (CPJ)

More than a year has passed since the government-influenced Broadcasting Council summarily closed the popular Central Broadcasting Service, or CBS. The council closed the station in September 2009 as riots were erupting in response to the government's decision to block the traditional Buganda king from attending a youth celebration north of the capital, Kampala. Its continued closure bodes ill for independent news coverage of February's presidential election.

Blog   |   Kenya, Somalia

'A Somali journalist's life is short anyways'

A journalist films an insurgent in Somalia. (Mohammed Ibrahim)

In August, Shabelle Media Network, one of Somalia's leading independent broadcasters, did something incredibly brave--they rebroadcast news and music that the BBC's Somali-language service beams to the war-torn Horn of African nation in defiance of a ban imposed by hard-line militant Islamist rebel groups Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam. For Somali journalists, who risk death by crossfire and assassination, and censorship from both insurgents and the weak U.S.-backed transitional government, it was a courageous pushback against forces hostile to independent media.

Blog   |   Kenya, South Africa

A lesson for South African media: Look to Kenya

Sammy Mbau (CPJ)

The chorus of voices opposing the South African government's proposed Protection of Information Bill and state-backed ombudsman continue to grow. South Africa's Business Day estimates the press produces three articles per day opposing what many journalists see as an attempt by the ruling party to muzzle investigative reporting. More than 30 editors from major papers published protest messages mid-month calling on the government to abandon the planned legislation. But the South African media has yet to coordinate a mass protest comparable to that successfully orchestrated by Kenyan journalists in 2007 against the country's media bill. And President Jacob Zuma, infamous for issuing defamation suits against a critical South African press, may not back down easily in the face of public criticism. 

August 23, 2010 5:02 PM ET

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Blog   |   Rwanda

In Rwanda election, no critical domestic press

Kagame at a rally in Nyagatare. (AP/Margaret Cappa)

"No one but you!" supporters of President Paul Kagame have shouted at recent election rallies with many waving the red, white, and blue flags that symbolize the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party, according to local and international reports. But journalists critical of the ruling party could not document firsthand the campaign that ended today because the government systematically shut their news outlets and swept them out of the country in a campaign of intimidation. 

August 9, 2010 4:17 PM ET

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Blog   |   Uganda

From 9/11 to 7/11, balancing security, liberty

Museveni at the African Union summit. (AP/Stephen Wandera)

Ugandan President Museveni urged his peers at this week's African Union summit to unite in the battle against terrorism in the aftermath of the terrible 7/11 bombings in Kampala. Security measures pursued by Ugandan authorities after the twin bombings, however, have left some Ugandans and other East African residents wary. East African journalists were among those detained by Ugandan security forces following the bombing. Uganda’s parliament, meanwhile, quickly passed a telephone surveillance bill.

July 27, 2010 1:00 PM ET

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Blog   |   Somalia

Somaliland elections and coverage surprisingly...normal

Voters at a Somaliland polling station on June 26. (Ahmed Kheyre)Critical voices in the East African media—whether in EthiopiaRwandaBurundi, or Uganda—have been intimidated, banned, blocked, and beaten prior to elections in recent years. Somalia is so embroiled in conflict that even the concept of having elections remains a faraway dream. But in late June, the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland in northern Somalia managed to hold relatively peaceful and free elections with decent media coverage, local journalists and election observers told CPJ.
July 7, 2010 5:29 PM ET

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Blog   |   Eritrea, Sweden

Reluctant activist: A brother’s struggle to free Dawit Isaac

Missing journalist Dawit Isaac's brother, Esayas, began the Free Dawit campaign in 2004. (Petra Jankov Picha)

In 2001, Eritrean security forces imprisoned Eritrean-Swedish journalist Dawit Isaac along with nine other journalists without trial in September 2001. The arrests effectively shut down the nation’s fledgling independent press and any potential political dissent prior to scheduled December 2001 elections, which were subsequently cancelled. To this day, Dawit is believed to be held incommunicado in a tiny cell in poor health. In all the years since his disappearance, Dawit’s brother, Esayas Isaac, has fought for his release. CPJ spoke to him on May 24, during the week of Eritrea’s 19th Independence Day:

May 25, 2010 2:12 PM ET

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Blog   |   Journalist Assistance, Somalia

Exiled Somali journalists face new challenges in Nairobi

Gesey, left, and Jimale in their Nairobi apartment. (CPJ/Tom Rhodes)

Somali journalists Hassan Ali Gesey and Abdihakim Jimale are roommates these days, living in a tiny, graffiti-ridden room in Nairobi, Kenya. Neither would have wanted to eke out an existence like this, but dire circumstances brought them together—starting with the night three years ago that Gesey saved Jimale’s life.

Blog   |   Gambia

Durbin, Senate colleagues press for Manneh’s release

Gambia Press Union

For more than two years, U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin and a group of Senate colleagues have been pressing for the release of Gambian journalist “Chief” Ebrima Manneh, left. In July 2006, security agents arrested Manneh at his workplace at the Daily Observer and have since held him incommunicado and without charge. On Thursday, Durbin and four other senators sent a letter to Kamalesh Sharma, secretary-general of the Commonwealth of Nations, urging him to launch an investigation into the case. 

March 19, 2010 10:15 AM ET

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Blog   |   Rwanda

Rwanda's Kagame tries to link bombs to critical press

APJournalists in Kigali are on tenterhooks after President Paul Kagame, left, made new accusations of their supposed involvement in a bomb attack in Rwanda. Just months before Rwanda’s presidential elections, Kigali was recently hit by two grenade attacks that killed two people and injured 30 others, according to news reports.

March 10, 2010 3:19 PM ET

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Blog   |   CPJ, Kenya, Somalia

African journalists face increasing risk for foreign outlets

Abdulle (CPJ)

“I didn’t wear the bulletproof jacket and helmet that Reuters gave me,” explained veteran Somali journalist Sahal Abdulle to a packed crowd at Nairobi’s Serena Hotel for CPJ’s launch of Attacks on the Press. “It didn’t seem right when my colleagues, local journalists, were risking their lives trying to cover the same event.” Abdulle, like all Somali journalists, faces immense challenges in covering the story in his war-ravaged country. According to this year’s findings in Attacks, nearly all the journalists killed in the line of duty in 2009 were local journalists—and nine of them were killed in Somalia.

February 16, 2010 5:32 PM ET

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Blog   |   Somalia

A new mission for Somalia’s Mustafa Haji Abdinur

January 21 marks Press Day in Somalia, the most dangerous country in Africa to be a journalist. As such, few local journalists find much reason to celebrate. With nine Somali journalists killed in the line of duty last year, numerous local journalists have fled, especially from the restive capital, Mogadishu. “The free media is going to die out,” journalist Mustafa Haji Abdinur warned Ron Hill in an MSNBC interview last year after he received CPJ’s 2009 International Press Freedom Award.

January 21, 2010 3:55 PM ET

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