Stanton B. Peabody, a pillar of the press in Liberia and mentor to generations of visiting foreign correspondents, died this week in Monrovia. He was 80. Stanton, affectionately called "Bob Stan" by friends and family, reported through five administrations, a coup that brought an army sergeant to power in 1980 and a civil war that toppled him in a bloodbath 10 years later.
Six associations of media professionals in Benin rallied Tuesday in Cotonou, the capital, in a protest march against what they called "the barbarity of security forces" against journalists.
On Monday, in a public lecture at New York University, South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe described as irreversible the democratic gains made since the end of apartheid, including the advancement of press freedom. "We have a constitution which guarantees basic human rights such as freedom of association, freedom of the press, and the independent judiciary," he declared. Many in South Africa, however, are not so sure that press freedom's future is secure.
It was February 2008 when Bahjo Mohamud Abdi received her first anonymous phone call. It was a man's voice asking her to confirm who she was. Abdi was a presenter and correspondent for the state radio in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Abdi confirmed her identity and thought no more about it. But then she received another anonymous phone call two hours later--informing her that she was talking to the "Somali Mujahadeen" and that they could see her in the local shopping center in downtown Baidoa.
Last week, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh participated in a rare meeting with select members of the West African nation's press corps. Jammeh spoke in favor of access to public information. He announced that he would allow The Standard newspaper to resume publication, five months after the National Intelligence Agency forced its editor, Sheriff Bojang, to halt production. But the president largely lashed out at the Gambian private press and critics of his repressive media policies in the meeting, a tense session that was broadcast on state television. Jammeh, a former army captain who seized power in a 1994 coup, spoke in a harsh and contemptuous tone as he addressed media owners invited to the State House in the capital, Banjul.
As South Africa celebrated Human Rights Day on March 21, the country was beset by uncertainty on the fate of media freedom and the ability of the press to report without state interference.
Reporting on the power struggle in Ivory Coast is increasingly perilous, with journalists facing a climate of threats, intimidation, and attacks that has forced many to choose between adopting partisan coverage or fleeing to safety. "Here, we are in a situation where if you are not with one camp, then you are against them. You must show you are partisan," reporter Stéphane Goué told CPJ today.
Hardy Kazadi Ilunga was just 21. A technician with the private station Radio-Télévision Mosaïque in the southern Democratic Republic of Congo town of Likasi, he was murdered late Saturday by a gunman apparently wearing a police uniform, according to the Congolese press freedom group OLPA and local journalists.
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