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

2013


Blog   |   South Sudan

Reporting on South Sudan crisis difficult, dangerous

Families displaced by fighting wait to be registered for food rations at a makeshift camp inside a United Nations facility on the outskirts of Juba on Monday. (Reuters/James Akena)

"They even started shooting through my house--I had to lie on the floor with my wife and kids," Angelo Wello, a freelance journalist for faith-based news sites and a pastor, told me. Like many residents of the capital of Juba, South Sudan, Angelo has found it incredibly hard to get accurate information and report on one of the most tragic, restive periods in South Sudan's short history. And, like other South Sudanese journalists, he has to weigh his work against safeguarding his own and his family's safety.

December 23, 2013 2:52 PM ET

Blog   |   Uganda

Uganda: Block the opposition and block the press

Police attempt to arrest a supporter of Erias Lukwago outside his home on December 2. (Monitor)

Getting rid of an influential opposition figure is a simple two-step process for Uganda's ruling party, the National Resistance Movement: Dismiss the opponent and ensure the press cannot cover it.

December 11, 2013 4:51 PM ET

Tags:

Blog   |   Kenya

Kenya's press takes to the streets against bill

A banner tied to the gates of Parliament protests a media bill under review. (CPJ/Tom Rhodes)

"Mr. President, you gagged us!" said a banner tied to the gates of Parliament today. Kenya's Editors Guild and the Kenya Correspondents' Association organized peaceful demonstrations across the country to protest a media bill currently under parliamentary review. Protests were held in every county in the country, according to William Janak, chairman of the correspondents' association, including roughly 80 to 100 protesters in the port-city of Mombasa, 100 in the central city of Kisumu, and 400 in the capital, Nairobi.

Blog   |   Kenya

Just the fear of draconian press laws is enough

Kenyan journalists' protests in 2007 warded off a new media law. (AP)

Few in Kenya's media could comprehend how a media bill, considered the most repressive in Kenya's 50-year history, could sail so easily through Parliament last week. Fittingly, Parliament passed the Kenya Information and Communications Amendment Bill on Halloween. It is awaiting President Uhuru Kenyatta's signature following a 14- day deliberation period.

November 5, 2013 3:29 PM ET

Tags:

Blog   |   Somalia

Shabelle off air and staff evicted, fearing for safety

Radio Shabelle was forced out of these offices on Saturday. (NPR)

The young staff members of Radio Shabelle, whose offices were in the relatively safe section of Mogadishu next to the airport, are no longer feeling safe.  On Saturday, while presenters were on the air, heavily armed security forces raided the Shabelle offices and arrested the three-dozen staff members at gunpoint, according to a statement by the Shabelle Media Network.  The security forces dismantled and took all of the equipment for Radio Shabelle and Sky-FM, a sister station in the same building, as well as Shabelle TV. 

October 30, 2013 10:49 AM ET

Tags:

Blog   |   Kenya

Kenyan police threaten press -- Press fights back!

In this screenshot, Kenyan Police Chief David Kimaiyo holds a press conference on October 23 in which he harshly criticizes the press. (K24TV)

On Wednesday, David Kimaiyo, Kenya's inspector general of police, launched a tirade at the Kenyan press, threatening to arrest and prosecute two journalists for their coverage of the Westgate Mall rescue operation.

Blog   |   Kenya

Covering Westgate

Two photographers take cover outside the Westgate Mall. (AP/Sayyid Azim)

The jumpy, cell phone clips of journalists and security officers crouching outside the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall in the capital, Nairobi, permeated the TV screens across Kenya for four days. Edgy local and foreign reporters hid behind vehicles as gunfire shots, repeated explosions and smoke emanated from a supermarket inside.

Blog   |   Somalia

Q&A: Hubaal's editor talks about press in Somaliland

Editor Hassan Hussein, left, and Director Mohamed Ahmed relaunch their publication one day after the government lifts its suspension. (Hubaal)

Hubaal, Somaliland's critical and much-beleaguered daily newspaper, is back on newsstands after a presidential pardon last week. The paper was shuttered on orders of the attorney general in June without explanation. In April, two gunmen, subsequently identified by authorities as police officers, raided the office of Hubaal and attacked its staff after a series of critical articles accusing the government of nepotism and misuse of office. Editor Hassan Hussein and Managing Director Mohamed Ahmed were both convicted on defamation charges last month and given prison terms. The two journalists were released on bail and are appealing their convictions.

Blog   |   Uganda

Filmmaker's arrest signals limits to Uganda coverage

Moments before his arrest, Taylor Krauss films damage to opposition leader Kizza Besigye's car by police. (Chimpreports)

Taylor Krauss, an American journalist, freelance filmmaker, and founder of the testimonial website Voices of Rwanda, traveled to Uganda roughly two weeks ago to conduct some filming in hopes of pitching footage later to various media outlets. Krauss is no stranger to the region; he has been traveling back and forth to the country for nine years. But now that he has been arrested, held for three days without charge, had his equipment confiscated, and finally forced out of the country, this probably marks his last visit. It probably also marks bad news for the press in Uganda.

Blog   |   Burundi, Gambia, Somalia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

A bid to rid Africa of criminal defamation, sedition laws

The African Union's special rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, has launched an auspicious initiative in East Africa to counter criminal defamation and sedition laws. Since independence, authorities and business interests in the East and Horn region have used criminal laws on sedition, libel, and insult--often relics of former, colonial administrations--to silence their critics in the press. "Criminal defamation laws are nearly always used to punish legitimate criticism of powerful people, rather than protect the right to a reputation," Tlakula said in a statement.

July 12, 2013 3:48 PM ET

Tags:

Blog   |   Kenya

Kenyan journalists kicked out of Parliament media center

Journalists use the media center to file stories on parliamentary proceedings. (Alphonce Shiundu)

News coverage of the Kenyan Parliament elected in March 2013 is off to a rocky start. The press last week was kicked out of the media center in the National Assembly, and although the speaker tried to make assurances that overall access won't be affected, journalists are wary.

Blog   |   Uganda

Siege over, but damage to Ugandan press may last

Journalists for The Monitor were locked out of their newsroom for 10 days. (Daily Monitor)

Journalists are back to work at Uganda's leading privately owned daily, The Monitor, after a 10-day siege of their newsroom by police. But that does not mean it is business as usual for the nation's press. The paper's owners at the Nation Media Group evidently begged and negotiated for its reopening--signaling to other media houses that they should toe the government line or face a similar stranglehold. Although the deliberations were successful in returning the paper to the newsstands, the long-term costs may prove exorbitant.

Blog   |   South Sudan

Q&A with an editor of South Sudan's Juba Monitor

Police arbitrarily arrested Michael Koma, the managing editor of South Sudan's daily Juba Monitor, on May 2 and detained him for four days following the publication of an article critical of the deputy security minister. A veteran journalist, Koma has experienced firsthand the poor state of press freedom within Africa's newest country. CPJ spoke with him briefly this week.

Blog   |   Uganda

In Uganda, media muzzled over alleged Muhoozi project

Gen. David Sejusa (Facebook)

While Uganda's politicians and social media are abuzz over a sensational letter reportedly written by a top security official about a high-level assassination plot, police have dutifully harassed the mainstream press in a bid to suppress the chatter.

Blog   |   Somalia

In Somalia, the mysterious case of Rahmo Abdulkadir

It seemed clear-cut and sadly familiar: A journalist was shot and killed while walking in Mogadishu, one of the deadliest places in the world for the press. Yet in the four weeks that have passed since those initial reports from international and local news agencies--accounts that were then amplified by the United Nations, CPJ, and numerous human rights groups--virtually everything about the case has been cast into doubt. Was there a murder, after all? Who was the woman said to have been targeted? Does she even exist, at least as she was described? What did the people described as eyewitnesses really see? And why, after telling local journalists early on that the case was actually being investigated as a false report, have police gone silent for weeks?

April 23, 2013 9:22 AM ET

Tags:

Blog   |   Ethiopia

UN panel: Eskinder Nega jailing violates international law

Eskinder Nega (Eskinder family)

Authorities in Ethiopia describe Eskinder Nega, a prominent columnist and government critic jailed since September 2011 on vague terrorism charges, as a dangerous individual bent on violent revolution. However, in an opinion handed down in 2012--publicized only this week by Washington, D.C.-based legal advocacy group Freedom Now--a United Nations panel of five independent experts ruled that Eskinder's imprisonment came "as a result of his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression."

April 5, 2013 2:35 PM ET

Tags:

Blog   |   Somalia

CPJ launches Somali Security Guide

Last week, two gunmen waited near the home of a young Somali journalist, Rahmo Abdulkadir, who had recently returned to the capital from the Galgadud district in central Somalia where she worked as a reporter for Radio Abudwaq (Worshipper). According to local journalists, 25-year-old Rahmo had just left an Internet café in Mogadishu around 9:30 p.m. on March 24 with a friend when she was shot and killed. Her companion was not harmed.

April 1, 2013 1:01 PM ET

Tags:

Blog   |   Somalia

Jubilation, then tragedy, for Mogadishu press this week

This week in Mogadishu, Abdiaziz Abdinuur, left was freed from prison, but Mohamed Ali Nuxurkey was killed in a bombing that injured three other journalists. (AFP, Raxanreeb)

"He's free! He's free!" a friend of mine from Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, shouted down the phone line on Sunday. For a fleeting second I did not know whom he referred to, given the high number of journalists imprisoned in the Horn region of Africa--but then it dawned on me: Abdiaziz Abdinuur had finally found justice. The 25-year-old freelance reporter was arrested on January 10 in Mogadishu for the most incomprehensible alleged crime: conducting an interview.

Blog   |   Kenya

New challenges for local and foreign press in Kenya

Information Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo has criticized the press in the past. (The Nation)

Kenya has passed peacefully through its election period, but questions still hang over the legitimacy of presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta's victory--as well as over the future of the country's media coverage. During polling, challenges arose for both local and international media, and they have not subsided. For the foreign press, it is now unclear how to get accreditation to report in the country. Local journalists are worried about the rise of self-censorship, and freedom of expression advocates are concerned by plans for vague regulations on hate speech.

Blog   |   Kenya

Journalists relieved, wary amid Kenyan elections

Presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta speaks to the press on election day. (AP)

Journalists could be seen rushing from polling station to polling station Monday to see long queues of determined Kenyan voters in what was apparently a largely peaceful election, according to the Deputy Director of Kenya's statutory media council, Victor Bwire. But leading up to the vote, many journalists worked in a climate of fear; and many of them say they are still wary that, once results are in, they will face attacks and other challenges such as they experienced in the aftermath of the last presidential election in 2007.

Blog   |   Somalia

Will talk of stronger Somali justice lead to action?

Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon met February 16 with the local journalist union. (NUSOJ)

Spirits of journalists in Somalia, the most dangerous country in Africa to practice the profession, were lifted slightly this week after Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon made several auspicious announcements. The key concern on the minds of journalists in the capital, Mogadishu, is access to justice--both in terms of journalists' own court appearances and in terms of solving the many outstanding murder cases of their colleagues. Twelve journalists were killed in the line of duty last year, the worst on record, and there hasn't been a single prosecution. 

Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi police attack journalists marching for Ruvakuki

Burundi journalists react to tear gas at Tuesday's protest. (Teddy Mazina)

On Tuesday, Burundi's press corps did what it has done for the past three weeks: protest the imprisonment of one of its own. Hassan Ruvakuki is a reporter jailed since November 28, 2011 on anti-state charges; for the first time, the journalists wore white t-shirts showing Ruvakuki in his green prison uniform. But this time, the reaction by police caught journalists by surprise.

Blog   |   Eritrea

Eritrea: Ali Abdu pleads ignorance of Dawit Isaac's fate

Ali Abdu, Eritrea's longtime information minister, has gone into exile, his brother has confirmed. (YouTube)

On Wednesday, the Swedish newspaper Expressen published what it described as an exclusive interview with Ali Abdu--Eritrea's long-time information minister, government spokesman, and censor-in-chief--who vanished from public view in November. The piece confirmed that Ali had gone into exile, but it shed no light on the whereabouts and well-being of more than two dozen imprisoned journalists.

Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi journalists march to support Ruvakuki

Hassan Ruvakuki (IWACU)

At 8 o'clock Tuesday morning roughly 50 Burundian journalists silently marched around the courthouses in the capital, Bujumbura, and the offices of the justice minister, protesting the imprisonment of their colleague, Hassan Ruvakuki.

"They sentenced him to three years without following the law," said Patrick Nduwimana, one of the protest organizers and the interim director of local private radio station Bonesha FM. A week earlier, on Tuesday, January 8, an appeals court in Burundi had sentenced Ruvakuki, a reporter for Bonesha FM and the French government-backed Radio France Internationale, to three years imprisonment for "working with a criminal group."