It was September 18, 2001. As usual, I had to do my shift as a news reader on Eritrea's national government-controlled radio station Dimtsi Hafash. It was just minutes before 6:30 a.m. I was almost ready with all of the Tigrinya news material given to me for broadcasting and was waiting for the on-air sign to flash and the countdown to begin. Then the phone rang.
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.
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.
An estimated 200 Congolese journalists marched to the National Assembly in Kinshasa on Friday to show their outrage over reports that supporters of incumbent President Joseph Kabila have physically and verbally abused members of the press.
Somalia was among the world's deadliest countries for journalists in 2009, the year I began working with CPJ's Journalist Assistance program. On June 7, two gunmen shot Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe and Ahmed Omar Hashi, the director and news editor of the country's leading independent station, Radio Shabelle. Hirabe died at the scene. Hashi barely survived and was hospitalized with wounds to the abdomen and right hand.
It's possible that no journalist in the world has received more court summonses in recent weeks than Editor Bob Rugurika of Burundi's Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), a station founded by CPJ award-winner Alexis Sinduhije.
On Tuesday, for the fifth time since July 18, Rugurika was interrogated by a magistrate in the capital, Bujumbura, about programs aired by his station, according to news reports and CPJ research. The magistrate allegedly asked Rugurika to "correct" a broadcast that pointed out that a 1996 U.N. report had implicated an official involved in the setting up of Burundi's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a massacre, RPA Editor-in-Chief Eric Manirakiza told CPJ.
Dozens of Togolese journalists marched in the capital, Lomé, on Saturday to call attention to reported allegations that government security agents planned to retaliate against critical reporters. The allegations themselves are in dispute--the government called them "fabricated"--but they are set against a recent U.N. report expressing concern over the official use of arbitrary detention and the alleged use of torture.
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.
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