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Africa

2009

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By Joel Simon

In 2008, the numbers of journalists killed and jailed both dropped for the first time since the war on terror was launched in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. This is welcome news, but it is tempered by harsh realities. The war on terror had a devastating effect on journalists, and the trends will be difficult to reverse. Over seven years, journalists were targeted for murder in record numbers, while deterioration in the international legal environment led to a surge in journalist imprisonments.

Using their cell phones, Africans are avid consumers of electronic information. For reporters, text messaging is an essential tool. It's a brave (and risky) new world. 
By Tom Rhodes

Cameroon’s diverse news media, among the most vibrant in Africa, operated under significant pressure. Influential political leaders used threats, regulatory action, and judicial harassment to censor critical coverage of national affairs, including a controversial constitutional amendment allowing President Paul Biya to seek re-election in 2011, public protests over inflation, and a series of high-profile corruption cases.

Two years after transitioning to democracy in historic U.N.-backed elections, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was one of the most perilous countries in Africa for journalists. For the fourth consecutive year, a journalist was murdered in unclear circumstances, this time in the unstable, strife-torn east of the country.

The small vanguard of independent media that emerged from a brutal 2005 crackdown struggled in the face of continuing government harassment. Although authorities issued licenses allowing a handful of independent political newspapers to operate, they continued to use imprisonment, threats, and legal and administrative restrictions to suppress coverage of sensitive issues.

Bracketed by profound attacks on the press, a tumultuous 2008 threatened the country’s standing as a regional leader in free expression. A repressive media bill sailed through parliament in December and was signed into law by President Mwai Kibaki as 2009 began. Enacted over the protests of local and international media groups, the measure provides the government with sweeping censorship powers. The information minister and a newly established communication commission were given broad authority to regulate broadcast content and scheduling. The law retains provisions allowing the internal security minister to raid media houses and confiscate equipment in the name of national security.

With a simmering insurgency in the north, a split within the ruling government, and talk of a constitutional amendment to allow President Mamadou Tandja to run for a third term in 2009, authorities increasingly tightened restrictions on the press. The high-profile imprisonment of Moussa Kaka, a reporter well known for his coverage of the insurgency, illustrated tensions between the government and the press.

On paper, Rwanda had more private newspapers and radio stations than at any point in its history. In practice, independent news coverage was minimal due to business woes and government intimidation. One critical editor was forced to flee the country, and a second was deported. Legislation pending in late year would stiffen accreditation requirements and force journalists to reveal sources in court.

Conditions deteriorated in Senegal, once considered a haven for press freedom. With contemptuous rhetoric, threats, physical violence, and criminal prosecutions, supporters of President Abdoulaye Wade and members of his government retaliated against critical journalists. The June 21 beating of two sports journalists covering a World Cup qualifying match in Dakar symbolized the tensions and ignited a contentious national debate over press freedom.

2009

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Attacks on the Press 2012

217 Journalists in exile, 2007-12

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Contact

Africa

Program Coordinator:
Sue Valentine

Advocacy Coordinator:
Mohamed Keita

East Africa Consultant:
Tom Rhodes

West Africa Consultant:
Peter Nkanga

svalentine@cpj.org
mkeita@cpj.org
trhodes@cpj.org
pnkanga@cpj.org

Tel: 212-465-1004
ext. 117
Fax: 212-465-9568

330 7th Avenue, 11th Floor
New York, NY, 10001 USA

Twitter: @africamedia_CPJ

Blog: Sue Valentine
Blog: Mohamed Keita
Blog: Tom Rhodes
Blog: Peter Nkanga