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

2011

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There is one simple rule for survival in Tanzania's media - whether you are an editor, reporter, columnist, printer, or even news vendor: don't be critical. Thanks to repressive laws on Tanzania's books, an article considered libelous by the state can get anyone in trouble, even prominent journalists such as Absalom Kibanda -- the chairman of the Tanzania Editor's Forum and managing editor of the popular Swahili daily Tanzania Daima ("Tanzania Forever").

Charles Ingabire was shot dead at 32. (Ally Mugenzi/BBC)

The crime reporter for Uganda's vibrant Daily Monitor, Andrew Bagala, went to an odd funeral over the weekend. Last week, he covered the murder of online journalist Charles Ingabire, 32, who was shot dead in the early hours of Thursday morning by unknown gunmen at a bar in a Kampala suburb. "I decided to follow up the case and attend the funeral," he told me. "It was first funeral I have ever been to in Africa where there was silence."

South Sudan President Salva Kiir said the Destiny article was defamatory. (CPJ)

Detained without charge for 18 days, tortured, and released without explanation, South Sudanese journalist Peter Ngor plans to fight back. "I am going to sue them [in] court. What they did to me was completely, utterly wrong," said Ngor, the editor of a new, private, English-language daily called Destiny.

Still, Ngor believes that his illegal detention was the work of a few individuals, and that ultimately, the world's newest country will support freedom of the press. "There are powerful individuals who want to stop the press for their own interests," he said.


From left, Francis Nyaruri's father, Peter Nyaruri; Peter's wife; the journalist's widow, Josephine Kwamboka; and his sister (CPJ)

Slain journalist Francis Nyaruri received threatening calls from a senior policeman shortly before he disappeared and his decapitated body was found in Kodera forest, western Kenya, a court sitting in Kisumu heard today in the presence of two murder suspects and four witnesses.

Swedish journalist Elsa Persson (Journalisternas Solidariska Fängelseaktion)

If you pass by Kronoberg Prison in Sweden's capital, Stockholm, you will see journalists chained to its gates. They have committed no crime. For over a week, journalists have taken turns locking themselves up in front of the prison to raise awareness of the imprisonment of three colleagues held in the Horn of Africa.

Namibians wanted independent journalism, Lister says. (The Namibian)

Namibia's information minister recently announced that a decade-long state advertising boycott of The Namibian, the country's largest daily newspaper, would finally end. An action intended to punish the paper for its independence had failed.

It was back in December 2000 that former President Sam Nujoma told his cabinet to block all government advertising and purchases of the leading daily because he perceived the newspaper to be anti-governmental. Nujoma's decree caused the paper to lose 6 percent of its advertising revenue and 650 single-copy sales to government officials, The Namibian's founding editor and former CPJ award winner Gwen Lister said.  

In the first months of an independent South Sudan, the press is feeling its way. (AP)

The former guerrillas of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) fought a 22-year civil war for greater autonomy and civil rights for the southern Sudanese people, culminating in South Sudan's independence this July. But local journalists fear the former rebels turned government officials still harbor a war mentality that is unaccustomed to criticism, and that they are not prepared to extend the freedoms they fought hard to attain. "We are still recovering from a war culture," Oliver Modi, chairman of the Union of Journalists of Southern Sudan, told me. "There is just too much ignorance toward the press. We are not used to systems, structures--even the media," he said, pointing to a list of eight documented cases of attacks against the press this year.

(Izuba)

Sometimes when a paper produces a defamatory piece, an apology will be published on page two in the next edition along with the day's news. In Rwanda, it would appear, a paper will use an entire edition to apologize--if the insults were directed at the president. The latest issue of Ishema, at left, is perhaps a sign of the times for Rwanda's press.

The vernacular bimonthly had recently published an opinion piece written under the byline "Kamikaze" that claimed President Kagame was a sociopath. Many within the media community protested, as did Adrien Servumba, who, branding himself "a concerned citizen," called on the state-run media ombudsman to reprimand the managing director, Fidele Gakire, the state news agency reported. On July 25, the agency reported that men in plainclothes seized copies of the paper from vendors. The same day, members of the Forum of Private Newspapers, an organization of newspaper owners, suspended Gakire from the group for six months. 

Journalist Dawit Isaac, co-founder of Eritrea's now-defunct leading newspaper Setit, has spent nearly 10 years in one of the reclusive Red Sea nation's secret prisons with no charges ever placed against him. Isaac's location and health status are currently unknown, as are those of at least 16 other journalists who CPJ believes are also being held incommunicado in the country.

At the end of June, Ethiopia's Anti-Terror Task Force arrested nine people on charges of attempting to "destroy electrical and telecommunication infrastructures" with support from Ethiopia's arch-enemy, Eritrea. Held under Ethiopia's far-reaching antiterrorism law, only four of the suspects' names have so far been revealed and two of them happen to be journalists

2011

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