African Union

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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.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at a conference in London in February. Western governments are hesitant to press Ethiopia on human rights abuses. (AP/Jason Reed)

Last week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, while Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was making a speech about Africa's growth potential at an African Union forum, a journalist who his administration has locked away since September on bogus terrorism charges was presenting his defense before a judge. Eskinder Nega has been one of the most outspoken critics of Meles' domestic leadership over the past two decades and has suffered imprisonment, intimidation, and censorship for it.

UNESCO's executive board Tuesday again deferred action on the life sciences prize named after and funded by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. The Committee to Protect Journalists joined with other human rights organizations to call on the board to eliminate the prize permanently.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is a stubborn man.  In 2008, the president of Equatorial Guinea made a $3 million donation to UNESCO to underwrite a prize in the life sciences. But a groundswell of opposition from human rights groups, press freedom organizations, and governments appalled by Obiang's record of kleptocracy and human rights abuses helped raise a global ruckus. Public pressure eventually forced UNESCO's executive board to reach a face saving agreement to suspend the prize while promising "to continue the consultations among all parties."

Noramfaizul Mohd, hours before he was killed. (Bernama)

New York, September 26, 2011--Four African Union soldiers deployed in Somalia have been suspended and returned to their home country of Burundi for potential trial after an internal investigation found them responsible for the shooting death of a Malaysian journalist this month. In a statement issued today, the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, apologized for the shooting, which injured a second Malaysian journalist.

The troops fired on a Malaysian humanitarian aid convoy traveling to its base at the Mogadishu airport, according to witnesses cited in international news reports. Killed in the September 2 gunfire was Noramfaizul Mohd, 39, a cameraman for Malaysia's national Bernama TV who was accompanying the humanitarian mission. Aji Saregar, 27, a camera operator for Malaysia's TV3, was struck in the right hand by gunfire.

Blog | CPJ

Representatives from U.N. agencies, member states, and nongovernmental organizations convened on Tuesday at the United Nations Inter-Agency Meeting on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity to plan how to address journalist security. Participants of the meeting, which was convened by UNESCO at its Paris headquarters, also discussed how the United Nations could promote greater interaction among its organizations to further improve press freedom around the world.

Malaysian cameraman Noramfaizul Mohd is the 35th journalist killed in direct relation to his work in Somalia. (Bernama)

New York, September 5, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the African Union to ensure the safety of civilians operating in Somalia after witnesses reported that AU forces fired on a Malaysian humanitarian convoy in Mogadishu on Friday, killing one journalist and injuring another. Calling the shootings "deeply regrettable," the African Union Mission in Somalia said in a statement that it has undertaken an investigation and would publicize its findings.

New York, August 5, 2011--The logistics manager and driver for Radio Simba, Farah Hassan Sahal, died from bullet wounds early Thursday evening just outside the station's compound in the restive Bakara Market in the capital, Mogadishu, Radio Simba Director Abdullahi Ali Farah told CPJ. Hassan was helping the station move damaged radio equipment when a sniper shot him three times, Farah said. Hassan, 45, is survived by his wife and eight children, he said.

New York, March 28, 2011--Security agents with Somalia's Interim Transitional Government arrested the director and news editor of Radio Shabelle on Sunday after the independent station aired a report saying the president was unable to visit areas recently captured by government and AU forces due to security concerns, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. The Ministry of Information deemed the March 22 report "factually incorrect and aiding the terrorists." 

New York, March 14, 2011--Security forces loyal to Ivorian ruler Laurent Gbagbo blocked distribution on Friday of pro-opposition newspapers reporting on the African Union's decision to confirm its recognition of rival Alassane Ouattara as president. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the obstruction and calls on authorities to halt further censorship.

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