CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Africa

2011


Blog   |   Tanzania

How to survive in Tanzania's press

There is one simple rule for survival in Tanzania's media - whether you are an editor, reporter, columnist, printer, or even news vendor: don't be critical. Thanks to repressive laws on Tanzania's books, an article considered libelous by the state can get anyone in trouble, even prominent journalists such as Absalom Kibanda -- the chairman of the Tanzania Editor's Forum and managing editor of the popular Swahili daily Tanzania Daima ("Tanzania Forever").

Blog   |   CPJ, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Journalist Assistance, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda

In Nairobi, plans to improve aid to exiled journalists

Kassahun Yilma left Ethiopia quickly in December 2009. He didn't have time to save money for the journey, choose a place to go, arrange housing or a job. He left his wife, his mother, his house and all his friends behind. Yilma didn't know what lay ahead. He only knew that if he stayed, he risked becoming a victim of a government-waged campaign against Addis Neger, the newspaper where he worked as a reporter.  "I ran away just to save my life," says Yilma, "because I was in fear for it."

December 16, 2011 10:25 AM ET

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Blog   |   Gambia

Pursuing justice for Gambia's Deyda Hydara

Deyda Hydara and his wife Maria circa 1989 (Hydara family)

December 16 will be the seventh anniversary of the killing of Deyda Hydara, the dean of Gambian journalism. It is also the 20th anniversary of the first issue of The Point, the courageously independent-minded daily that Hydara founded and directed for many years. He was murdered in a drive-by shooting as he drove himself and two staff members home from an evening of somber celebration at The Point's premises. He had received multiple death threats in the preceding weeks and months. In his last column, he vowed to keep fighting to the end for Gambians' right to speak their minds.

Blog   |   South Africa

Mission Journal: Secrets bill spurs South African press

A protest against pending state secrets legislation in South Africa. (Chris Yelland)

Irrespective of whether South Africa actually implements the most draconian parts of state secrets legislation now under consideration, the media in the continent's most open democracy already feel under threat. The prospect of 25-year jail sentences for journalists publishing "classified" information has galvanized disparate news outlets and journalists groups to work together like never before. 

Blog   |   Ethiopia

Awramba Times is latest Ethiopian paper to vanish

Awramba Times featured parliamentary affairs, health issues, women's issues, satire, and folklore. (CPJ)

A couple of weeks ago, newspaper editor Dawit Kebede, an International Press Freedom award winner, fled Ethiopia. Sadly, Dawit's Awramba Times is the latest in a long list of Amharic-language private publications to vanish from the market following the incarceration or flight into exile of their editors.

December 9, 2011 5:27 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ethiopia

Intimidation or imprisonment by 'democratic instruments'

The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, foreground, is holding seven journalists, most on anti-state charges. (Reuters)

Three years ago, I met Minister Bereket Simon at his office at the center of Addis Ababa. I was with my colleague Abiye Teklemariam -- who was recently charged with terrorism, treason and espionage along with five other journalists, including myself.

Blog   |   Rwanda, Uganda

The silent funeral of an exiled Rwandan journalist

Charles Ingabire was shot dead at 32. (Ally Mugenzi/BBC)

The crime reporter for Uganda's vibrant Daily Monitor, Andrew Bagala, went to an odd funeral over the weekend. Last week, he covered the murder of online journalist Charles Ingabire, 32, who was shot dead in the early hours of Thursday morning by unknown gunmen at a bar in a Kampala suburb. "I decided to follow up the case and attend the funeral," he told me. "It was first funeral I have ever been to in Africa where there was silence."

December 5, 2011 5:15 PM ET

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Blog   |   Eritrea

Solomon Abera, who voiced end of Eritrean free press, dies

Solomon Abera was once a presenter for state television ERI-TV. (Solomon Abera)

The name Solomon Abera will forever be etched in the collective memory of Eritrea's press corps. On September 18, 2001, as the world focused its attention on the terrorist attacks on the United States, the government of Eritrea borrowed Abera's voice to sound the death knell, on state-controlled airwaves, of the Red Sea nation's independent press. Shortly after Abera read the announcement, the government rounded up leading independent newspaper editors and a dozen ruling-party dissidents calling for democratic reform -- all of whom have disappeared in custody.

Ten years to the day after being handed one of the most chilling news items he ever read on Dimtsi Hafash radio during his 14 years as a reporter, presenter, producer, and commentator, Abera reflected on the experience on our blog.

Today, we learned that Solomon Abera, who lived in exile in Germany after fleeing government censorship and intimidation in 2005, is no more.

December 2, 2011 5:12 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ivory Coast

Justice pins Gbagbo, but not yet Ouattara's forces

Pro-Ouattara FRCI soldiers patrol along a road in Yopougon. (Reuters).

This week, former Ivory Coast ruler Laurent Gbagbo was extradited to the Hague to account for alleged human rights violations before the International Criminal Court. Justice appears to be slower in coming to rival fighters loyal to current President Alassane Ouattara. According to CPJ research, Ouattara's forces have been involved in the deaths of two journalists, most recently Gilles Tutsi Murris Dabé.

Dabé, 39, a presenter with private Radio Nostalgie, was killed by a stray bullet around midnight on November 20, after fighters from the pro-Ouattara Republican Forces of the Ivory Coast (known by the French acronym FRCI) opened fire at a car at a checkpoint near the president's private residence, according to news reports and local journalists. The fighters opened fire after the driver refused to stop, witnesses told CPJ.

Blog   |   South Sudan

South Sudan journalist speaks out after illegal detention

South Sudan President Salva Kiir said the Destiny article was defamatory. (CPJ)

Detained without charge for 18 days, tortured, and released without explanation, South Sudanese journalist Peter Ngor plans to fight back. "I am going to sue them [in] court. What they did to me was completely, utterly wrong," said Ngor, the editor of a new, private, English-language daily called Destiny.

Still, Ngor believes that his illegal detention was the work of a few individuals, and that ultimately, the world's newest country will support freedom of the press. "There are powerful individuals who want to stop the press for their own interests," he said.


November 22, 2011 4:32 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ethiopia

Ethiopian satirist silently joins ranks of the exiled

An Abé Tokichaw column from March 2011 (CPJ)

Newspaper satirist Abebe Tolla, better known as Abé Tokichaw, fled Ethiopia fearing imprisonment in retaliation for critical news commentaries, media reported this week. His exit was overshadowed by the trial of opposition figures and journalists on charges of terrorism.

In an interview he gave to U.S.-based Addis Neger Online from an undisclosed location, Abebe said he fled the country because security agents threatened to throw him in prison. He did not even bid farewell to family members. Abebe alleged that state security agents pressured him for months to become an informant at his newspaper, the critical Amharic weekly Feteh.

November 16, 2011 5:40 PM ET

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Blog   |   Angola, China, Internet, Iran, Nigeria, Russia

Defending the middle ground of online journalism

It's easy to use polarizing descriptions of online news-gathering. It's the domain of citizen journalists, blogging without pay and institutional support, or it's a sector filled with the digital works of "mainstream media" facing financial worries and struggling to offer employees the protection they once provided. But there is a growing middle ground: trained reporters and editors who work exclusively online on projects born independent of traditional media. They share many of the practices of an older generation of reporters, but their work draws from the decentralized and agile practices of the digital world. 

Blog   |   Kenya

Glimmer of hope for justice in Kenyan death

From left, Francis Nyaruri's father, Peter Nyaruri; Peter's wife; the journalist's widow, Josephine Kwamboka; and his sister (CPJ)

Slain journalist Francis Nyaruri received threatening calls from a senior policeman shortly before he disappeared and his decapitated body was found in Kodera forest, western Kenya, a court sitting in Kisumu heard today in the presence of two murder suspects and four witnesses.

November 3, 2011 4:28 PM ET

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Blog   |   Gambia

U.S. senator again presses Gambia on missing journalist

Amnesty International campaigns in front of U.S. Congress. (Ilona Kelly)

On Thursday, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin sent a letter to Gambia's justice minister, Edward Gomez, renewing his appeal for the release of local journalist Ebrima "Chief" Manneh. Manneh disappeared more than five years ago after security agents seized him at the offices of his newspaper, the Daily Observer.

November 3, 2011 3:55 PM ET

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Blog   |   Eritrea, Ethiopia

Swedish support for jailed colleagues in Ethiopia, Eritrea

Swedish journalist Elsa Persson (Journalisternas Solidariska Fängelseaktion)

If you pass by Kronoberg Prison in Sweden's capital, Stockholm, you will see journalists chained to its gates. They have committed no crime. For over a week, journalists have taken turns locking themselves up in front of the prison to raise awareness of the imprisonment of three colleagues held in the Horn of Africa.

October 17, 2011 4:47 PM ET

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Blog   |   Equatorial Guinea

Obiang prize shelved... for now... again

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.

October 5, 2011 9:49 AM ET

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Blog   |   Equatorial Guinea

Obiang prize goes down to the wire

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."

October 3, 2011 10:03 AM ET

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Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi media defy censorship order

A woman mourns at the burial of a man killed in the Gatumba shooting. (Reuters)

Tensions between the Burundi government and the local press are bound to increase as several media this week defied an order not to investigate or discuss a recent massacre. While officials say the measure is "temporary" and necessary to safeguard national unity and the course of justice, independent journalists are asserting their right to publish information in the interest of public accountability.

September 30, 2011 5:40 PM ET

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Blog   |   Equatorial Guinea

UNESCO must reject Obiang prize bid

The Committee to Protect Journalists joined with eight other human rights organizations today in opposing the bid for a UNESCO life sciences prize named after Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. CPJ and other groups have consistently voiced their opposition to this prize, saying that Equatorial Guinea's human rights record undercuts the UNESCO mission.

Last year, after human rights organizations, press freedom groups, scientists, journalists, and intellectuals spoke out against the bid, the Obiang prize was suspended indefinitely.

The press release can be seen here

September 26, 2011 5:29 PM ET

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Blog   |   Eritrea

Eritrea: Let's lift the shroud of 10 years of misery

On September 18, 2001, President Isaias Afewerki banned all independent press in Eritrea. (AP)

Since Zaid Tewelde's husband, an Eritrean freedom fighter turned playwright and journalist, was arrested in September 2001, she has spent each passing day coping with the burning questions of her two young sons, age 9 and 10, "Where is my dad? When are we going to see him?" And she is not alone. Like Zaid, the wives of journalists Seyoum Tsehaye, Dawit Isaac, Yusuf Mohamed Ali, and Temesghen Ghebreyesus, among others, have endured the same haunting questions 365 days a year for a decade.

Blog   |   Gambia

Gambia VP touts tourism, downplays human rights issues

Gambian Vice-President Isatou Njie-Saidy (AFP)

The Gambia has an image problem: Dubbed the "Smiling Coast of Africa," it is a tourist destination, but its government has one of the region's worst records of human rights abuses. On Tuesday, at an African tourism promotion event in New York City, Gambian Vice-President Isatou Njie-Saidy headed a delegation working toward improving the negative perceptions of the country.

In a discussion with Njie-Saidy after the event, I mentioned to her that an Internet search of the Gambia yields many results about its human right abuses. In response, she shifted the topic to the United States: "Do they tell you about Guantánamo Bay? Seems like a human rights issue," she said. "And, you know, in the Internet, you have a lot of garbage. ... Don't believe everything you read: You have to look in between." She later accused social media of peddling untruths: "Social media is the problem," she said.

September 21, 2011 3:26 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ethiopia

In Ethiopia case, a response to WikiLeaks

Last week, we learned that Ethiopian journalist Argaw Ashine was facing possible arrest and needed to flee the country. During a 10-day period in September, he had been summoned three times by Ethiopian authorities and questioned about a reference to him in a cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in October 2009 and made public by WikiLeaks last month.
September 19, 2011 1:05 PM ET

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Blog   |   Eritrea

When Eritrea shut down the independent press

Ten years after the author reported the government's shutdown of the private press, Eritrea continues to imprison journalists swept up in the crackdown. Among them is Dawit Isaac, a Swedish-Eritrean national whose case has drawn wide attention. (Petra Jankov Picha)

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.

September 18, 2011 1:16 PM ET

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Blog   |   Eritrea

EU resolution urges Eritrea to free long-jailed journalists

From left, European Parliament members Judith Sargentini, Charles Tannock, Ana Gomes, and Olle Schmidt call for the release of Eritrean political prisoners. (European Parliament)

Eritrea was on the hot seat Thursday in Strasbourg and Brussels. Ten years after a massive crackdown on dissent in Asmara that included the arrests of 11 independent journalists, European institutions have signalled that they are weary of President Isaias Afeworki's repression. 

September 16, 2011 5:51 PM ET

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Blog   |   Namibia

A quiet victory for The Namibian

Namibians wanted independent journalism, Lister says. (The Namibian)

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.  

Blog   |   South Sudan

Mission Journal: South Sudan's struggle for a free press

In the first months of an independent South Sudan, the press is feeling its way. (AP)

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.

September 8, 2011 1:44 PM ET

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Blog   |   Democratic Republic of the Congo

DRC journalists urge ruling party to halt abuse

Marchers urge ruling party to end abuse. (John Bompengo)

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. 

August 29, 2011 3:12 PM ET

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Blog   |   Internet, USA, Zimbabwe

Legal protection falls short for Zimbabwe's Insider

The Insider is a political newsletter about Zimbabwe, edited by veteran journalist Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was printed as a 12-page leaflet until 2003, when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to publish with annual subscriptions. Rukuni made the move to the Web, where he continued to archive and publish stories at insiderzim.com. Rukuni's site has been one of the only outlets for investigative journalism in the country. Rukuni chose to host The Insider outside Zimbabwe, he says, for access speed and to protect it from local interference.  

August 24, 2011 2:52 PM ET

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Blog   |   Somalia

Evacuating Somali reporters who face unrelenting violence

Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe was killed in 2009. (NUSOJ)

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.

Blog   |   Burundi

Burundi's journalists and lawyers face intense harassment

Rugurika (CPJ)

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.

Blog   |   Togo

Togo journalists protest purported security threats

Togolese journalists at Saturday's protest. (Sylvio Combey)

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.

Blog   |   Rwanda

Rwandan paper calls president a 'sociopath', apologizes

(Izuba)

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. 

Blog   |   Eritrea

Habeas corpus writ seeks Dawit Isaac, jailed for 3,600 days

Journalist Dawit Isaac, co-founder of Eritrea's now-defunct leading newspaper Setit, has spent nearly 10 years in one of the reclusive Red Sea nation's secret prisons with no charges ever placed against him. Isaac's location and health status are currently unknown, as are those of at least 16 other journalists who CPJ believes are also being held incommunicado in the country.

August 3, 2011 12:06 PM ET

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Blog   |   Senegal

Journalists 'rebel' at Senegal's state broadcaster

RTS journalists protest on July 21. (Sud)

The Senegalese state-controlled radio and TV Corporation, Radio Télévision Sénégalaise (RTS), is experiencing an internal struggle for editorial freedom as Senegal moves toward a presidential election on February 26, 2012. 

July 29, 2011 3:23 PM ET

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Blog   |   Guinea

Guinea's censorship order puts RFI in difficult spot

AFP

On Monday, Guinea's state-controlled media regulatory agency imposed a "temporary" ban on media coverage of the July 19 attack on the private residence of President Alpha Condé, silencing private radio and television talk programs in which critical questions were being raised about the episode. In such circumstances, Guinean listeners turn to foreign media outlets such as France's state-funded international broadcaster, Radio France Internationale (RFI), the most popular station in Francophone Africa. With programs such as "Appels Sur L'actualité," a daily news call-in show, RFI is considered by millions of African listeners to be an essential source of news and information. 

July 28, 2011 6:01 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ethiopia

Terrorists? A look at two jailed Ethiopian journalists

At the end of June, Ethiopia's Anti-Terror Task Force arrested nine people on charges of attempting to "destroy electrical and telecommunication infrastructures" with support from Ethiopia's arch-enemy, Eritrea. Held under Ethiopia's far-reaching antiterrorism law, only four of the suspects' names have so far been revealed and two of them happen to be journalists

July 20, 2011 3:23 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ethiopia

UNHCHR grills Ethiopia on anti-terror law

Ethiopian officials were defiant in the face of U.N. questioning (UN)

This week, the Human Rights Committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights reviewed Ethiopia's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including its press freedom record. Peppered with questions about an indefensible record of abuse--jailing the second largest number of journalists in Africa and leading the continent in Internet censorship--representatives of the Ethiopian government responded with cursory talking points and bold denials in contradiction of the facts.

Blog   |   Kenya

Kenya's quiet information revolution

Kenya's new government database.

An information revolution is quietly unfolding in Kenya, potentially allowing the public greater access to government data and independent local news. This month, the nation became a regional leader in open government with the launch of a website providing easy access to volumes of public information. Journalists can tap into public budget data with relative ease through the government portal. 

July 15, 2011 2:18 PM ET

Blog   |   Liberia

In Liberia, silencing press critics through libel lawsuits

A man in Liberia holds a sign in support of Rodney Sieh, whose newspaper was found guilty of libel. (Aaron Leaf)

During Liberia's 14-year civil war, the press was silenced through violence. Journalists now say they are the victims of a more subtle assault. They say a corrupt judiciary and a vindictive use of libel suits are a threat to an otherwise burgeoning free press. 

July 12, 2011 12:15 PM ET

Blog   |   Nigeria

Nigeria's new FOI law brings celebration, challenges

President Goodluck Jonathan signed a public information bill long in the making. (AP/Bebeto Matthews)

There is a deserved celebration in the Nigerian media over the recently passed Freedom of Information Act, which provides citizens with broad access to public records and information held by a public official or institution.  It is the climax of an 11-year struggle to pass such a law in the Nigerian parliament. Indeed, the call for such a law was first made under military rule, in 1993, when the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Civil Liberties Organisation, and the Media Rights Agenda began to clamor for it.

July 7, 2011 2:05 PM ET

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Blog   |   Internet, USA

Google+ for journalists at risk

A Google developers conference in May. (Reuters/Beck Diefenbach)

When they're creating new features, software designers talk in terms of "use cases." A use case describes steps that future customers might perform with a website. "Starting a group with friends," would be a use case for Facebook. "Buying a book" would be case for Amazon's designers. 

Blog   |   Senegal

Mission Journal: Politics influence justice in Senegal

President Wade protected a protege accused of orchestrating anti-press attacks. (AFP/Filippo Montegorte)
Senegalese journalists say justice is not on their side when they are victims of abuse by powerful officials or security forces. I met recently in Dakar with journalists targeted with criminal acts in apparent reprisal for their work. In these two high-profile cases, CPJ has found evidence of political influence on the judiciary.

Blog   |   Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, anti-terrorism law chills reporting on security

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's ruling party has designated five groups as terrorist entities. (AFP)

How can an Ethiopian reporter cover the activities of Ethiopia's leading opposition figure, Berhanu Nega, or an attack by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels without risking prosecution and a 20-year prison sentence? Such questions have haunted Ethiopian journalists since a far-reaching anti-terrorism law came into effect in 2009. The law criminalizes any reporting authorities deem to "encourage" or "provide moral support" to groups and causes the government labels as "terrorists."

Blog   |   Cameroon, UK

In exile: From a Cameroonian jail to immigration limbo

Atangana (David Dore)

I was arbitrary and unlawfully arrested and detained in a heavily secured military police detention facility in Cameroon for 40 days. I had to bribe my way out of the country to seek sanctuary and protection. 

Cameroon is a dictatorship dressed up as a fake democracy, with a leader in power for more than 29 years. As an investigative economics and current affairs journalist, I worked with the leading independent newspaper, Le Messager, and also with other newspapers before that. I wrote critical articles about the government and exposed its wrongdoing and corruption.

June 20, 2011 12:01 AM ET

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Blog   |   Cuba, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe

CPJ's exiled journalists survey: Behind the numbers

Berhane (Colin McConnell/Toronto Star)

In 2007, my colleague Karen Phillips suggested we do something to mark World Refugee Day. Initially planning to publish a brief statement, I set about reviewing our data for background, checking in with older journalist cases about their current situation and looking broadly for trends to highlight. As the number of cases began counting into the hundreds, it became clear that what we had was a new indicator of press freedom conditions. Today, we're marking our fifth year of publishing the CPJ survey of journalists in exile, which is based on 10 years of data on 649 cases. 

Blog   |   Ethiopia, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda

The Internet in East Africa: An aid or a weapon?

In Johannesburg. (CPJ)

Frank Nyakairu has seen it all. A veteran war reporter, he has covered the horrors of northern Uganda and Somalia, among others places. And throughout this time of rich but often appalling experiences, he has also seen the auspicious--and sometimes terrifying--impact the Internet has had on East African reporters. 

Nyakairu spoke at a recent workshop held in Johannesburg, South Africa, co-organized by Global Voices, Google Africa, and CPJ. Attendees at the conference comprised some of the most active African bloggers and online reporters on the continent who came to learn how to sharpen their online reporting skills while avoiding the censors. 

Blog   |   Kenya

Acquitted: A Kenyan journalist struggles to report freely

(CPJ)

A court in Kisumu, western Kenya, recently acquitted journalist Bernard Okebe, at left, of graft charges after a two and a half year case against him. While the case is finally over, Okebe is still dealing with the fallout of being accused of blackmail.

In December 2008, the police chief of Nyamira, a town in western Kenya, accused Okebe of bribing him. Police Chief Lawrence Njoroge alleged that Okebe had demanded 15,000 Kenyan shillings (US$175) to stop him from publishing a damaging article against him.

June 14, 2011 11:02 AM ET

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Blog   |   CPJ, Security

In journalist security field, maturing and understanding

Journalists are facing increasing risk at public demonstrations. Here, a March rally in Islamabad to denounce the CIA. (Reuters/Mian Khursheed)

Journalist security is still a maturing field, but news organizations are devoting more attention to preparing their reporters and photographers for the dangers particular to the profession. That means understanding risks that are constantly evolving. The brutal attack on CBS correspondent Lara Logan at a Cairo demonstration has drawn worldwide attention to the issue of sexual assault against journalists--CPJ issued new guidelines on the threat today--but the case also points to an emerging, if lesser-known threat. In the past 18 months, more journalists have been killed covering violent demonstrations and other non-military events than at any time since CPJ began keeping detailed records two decades ago.

June 7, 2011 8:57 AM ET

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Blog   |   Burundi

Journalist freed in Burundi vows to keep reporting, carefully

Kavumbagu (AFP)
As recently as April, the state prosecutor in Burundi demanded journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu be put away for life. But just a month later, Africa's only jailed online journalist was a free man. A relentless international campaign by press freedom groups, human rights activists and Western governments had paid off.
May 31, 2011 6:02 PM ET

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Blog   |   Somalia

Exiled Somali journalists rally around wounded colleague

Colleagues gather to support Hassan. (CPJ)

Hassan Mohamed, nicknamed "Jaeyl" by his colleagues, used to be a jack-of-all-trades for Somalia's first independent broadcaster, HornAfrik. He was a journalist, a producer, and a librarian. He was even a dramatist. His most powerful professional role was keeping HornAfrik running when most senior staff members fled the country, fearing for their lives.

May 24, 2011 4:40 PM ET

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Blog   |   Iraq, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka

Video: 'Living in silence: Journalists in exile'

We write a lot at CPJ about the terrible things that happen to journalists because of their reporting, but we don't often get a chance to show you what happens to them after they are forced to flee their homes and land abroad. This video, about three such journalists, is worth watching.

Blog   |   Rwanda

Rwanda's Kagame and journalist get into Twitter spat

President Paul Kagame is a leader who draws sharply divided opinions--praise from some for rebuilding Rwanda after the 1994 genocide and criticism from others over a record of repression of dissent and the press. On Saturday, a tweet critical of Kagame by British columnist Ian Birrell sparked a heated exchange about press freedom between the two men on the social networking site. 

May 16, 2011 2:29 PM ET

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Blog   |   Liberia, Libya

Tribute to Chris Hondros, who ventured far with his torch

Chris Hondros, Carolyn Cole, a rebel fighter, and the author in Liberia. (Courtesy Nic Bothma)

My dear friend Chris.

In the silence, I hear the symphony of memories that was your life as I knew it. I see your waving hand gestures and wry smile as you recount stories whilst we sit together in the tropical Liberian heat discussing everything from classical music to aperture priority. My heart and mind keep seeing you, hearing you, and struggling to believe you have moved on.

April 22, 2011 4:49 PM ET

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Blog   |   Libya

Tim Hetherington: A star inexorably, humbly rising

Hetherington at the opening night of the World Press Photo Award exhibition in Zurich, Switzerland, on May 7, 2008. (AP/Keystone/Eddy Risch)

I first met Tim Hetherington in Monrovia in 2005, in the run-up to Liberia's then historic elections, which officially drew the line under the country's 14-year civil war. Tim had already reported from Liberia in the chaotic final stages of that war in 2003, marching for days on end through dense and unforgiving tropical bush filming rebels making a last desperate assault on the regime of the falling president, Charles Taylor.

April 22, 2011 12:35 PM ET

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Blog   |   Uganda

Ugandan media censored over Walk to Work protests

A police officer manhandles a journalist during a Walk to Work protest. (Joseph Kiggundu/The Monitor)
Freedom of the press in Uganda hit a new low late last week when the government, in response to a decision by opposition figures to demonstrate against the escalating price of food and fuel by walking to work, banned live coverage of the protests and issued a directive to Internet providers to block two popular social websites for 24 hours.
April 19, 2011 4:33 PM ET

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Blog   |   Liberia

Veteran Liberian press freedom fighter dies

The Liberian press is flourishing, but press freedom is a concern, Stanton B. Peabody told CPJ before his recent death.

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. 

April 15, 2011 5:14 PM ET

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Blog   |   Benin

Benin journalists protest attacks

A march against the beating of Journalists covering events. (Benoit Koffi)

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.

April 14, 2011 6:13 PM ET

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Blog   |   Malawi

Malawi: A prying press silenced by injunctions

The president with first lady Callista Mutharika at a G20 summit last year. (AP)
In Malawi, where half the population survives on a dollar a day, it proves wise for the political elite to keep their exorbitant wealth hidden from public scrutiny.  That's why they appear to be running to the courthouse to file injunctions to silence the press.

Blog   |   South Africa

At NYU, South Africa's Motlanthe defends press policies

Motlanthe at NYU. (CPJ/Mohamed Keita)

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. 

Blog   |   Kenya, Somalia

A Somali journalist still gets taunting threats in exile

Abdi has been targeted from Somalia to Kenya. (CPJ)

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. 

March 25, 2011 4:59 PM ET

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Blog   |   Gambia

Jammeh to news media: I set limits on press freedom

No sacrifices to the "altar of freedom of the press," says Jammeh. (AFP)

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.

March 23, 2011 12:55 PM ET

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Blog   |   South Africa

In South Africa, threats to press cloud Human Rights Day

Western Cape protesters march against South Africa's secrecy bill. (R2K)

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. 

March 22, 2011 12:36 PM ET

Blog   |   Ivory Coast

In Ivory Coast, journalists pick sides or flee

Gbagbo youth leader Charles Blé Goudé urges supporters to take up arms. (AFP/Sia Kambou)

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.

March 21, 2011 5:46 PM ET

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Blog   |   Democratic Republic of the Congo

Killer of DRC technician said to wear police uniform

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. 

March 16, 2011 2:18 PM ET

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Blog   |   Cameroon

Fearing Egypt-style revolt, Cameroon bars Twitter service

"For security reasons, the government of Cameroon requests the suspension of the Twitter sms integration on the network," announced a March 8 tweet by Bouba Kaélé, marketing manager of the Cameroon unit of South Africa-based telecommunications provider MTN. The announcement has since disappeared from Kaélé's Twitter feed, but was memorialized by a handful of Twitter users who retweeted the comment and the Cameroonian daily Le Jour, which printed a story.

March 14, 2011 12:56 PM ET

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Blog   |   Zimbabwe

For Zimbabwean journalist Saize, the absurd is routine

For 37-year-old Zimbabwean freelance journalist Sydney Saize, left, enduring arrest and assault has become absurdly routine--and the circumstances routinely absurd. Take his most recent detention, in February. Saize was reporting on a mundane criminal case in Mutare, capital of the diamond-rich Manicaland province, when the story suddenly turned dramatic.

March 14, 2011 10:34 AM ET

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Blog   |   Liberia

Bob Stan, Liberia press pioneer, captivates at 80

The Liberian press is flourishing, but press freedom is a concern, says Stanton B. Peabody.

Veteran journalist Stanton B. Peabody, a pioneer of press freedom in Liberia, turned 80 last month. Peabody, known to family and friends as "Bob Stan," is a captivating figure full of wisdom and humor. We talked recently about his journalism career, one that has tracked the blossoming of the press in Liberia. 

March 10, 2011 11:04 AM ET

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Blog   |   Egypt, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe charges 45 with treason for viewing Egypt footage

Men and women arrested for watching footage of the unrest in Egypt wait outside a Harare courthouse. (Reuters)

The right to receive and impart information is a fundamental human right enshrined in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but in Zimbabwe, watching news of North African and Middle East protests apparently amounts to treason. 

March 4, 2011 1:56 PM ET

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Blog   |   France, Rwanda

Out of Africa: Lucie Umukundwa five years later

(Lucie Umukundwa)

Five years after helping her leave her region due to threats, CPJ catches up with Rwandan journalist Lucie Umukundwa to learn more about her struggles to resettle in another continent, regain a foothold in journalism and continue to make an impact in Africa.

March 4, 2011 1:04 PM ET

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Blog   |   Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Zimbabwe

Sub-Saharan Africa censors Mideast protests

A man sets up a satellite dish in Zimbabwe, where state news is severely restricted on the ongoing protests in the Middle East, but where CNN is still accessible. (AP)As news of Middle Eastern and North African protests swirl around the globe, satellite television and the Internet prove vital sources of information for Africans as governments fearful of an informed citizenry and a free press such as in Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and Zimbabwe impose total news blackouts on the developments.

Blog   |   Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Mexico, Pakistan

Documenting sexual violence against journalists

Jineth Bedoya takes notes in December 2000 under the watch of a bodyguard in Bogotá in an armored car after she was kidnapped, beaten, and raped in April that year. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

The news of the sexual assault against CPJ board member and CBS correspondent Lara Logan hit us hard on Tuesday. At CPJ, we work daily to advocate on behalf of journalists under attack in all kinds of horrific situations around the world. Because of Lara's untiring work with our Journalist Assistance program, she's well known to everyone on our staff.

Blog   |   Uganda

CPJ calls on Uganda's Museveni to respect press freedom

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (AFP)

In partnership with the Ugandan Human Rights Network for Journalists, CPJ has written a letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni asking him to respect press freedom and end a wave of attacks against journalists in the run-up to the February 18 general elections. At least 10 journalists have been attacked in election-related incidents since the electoral process began in November 2010, the letter states. Media outlets that provide a platform for opposition parties are facing intimidation, detentions, and censorship while opposition parties are denied air time despite broadcast licensing obligations to provide equal coverage for all presidential candidates. You can see the letter--and the signatures of 32 other press freedom groups--here.  

February 16, 2011 3:26 PM ET

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Blog   |   Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda

Nairobi Attacks launch probes investigative reporting

Journalists at CPJ's Nairobi launch of Attacks on the Press today. (CPJ)At CPJ's book launch of our annual survey of press freedom conditions across the world, Attacks on the Press, today in Nairobi, we focused on the growing theme of challenges to investigative journalism in Africa, with a particular look at East Africa. The subject certainly resonated with the local and foreign journalists here. 
February 15, 2011 3:01 PM ET

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Blog   |   Uganda

As Uganda election nears, fear among reporters

Captors held radio journalist Arafat Nzito for 10 days. (Courtesy Nzito)

As Ugandan journalists prepare to cover presidential elections on February 18 amid political tensions and security concerns, uncertainty and fear are on the minds of reporters. That's particularly so after a year in which 52 press freedom abuses--ranging from physical and verbal intimidation to state censorship and murder--were recorded, according reports by Ugandan press freedom group Human Rights Network of Journalists (HRNJ-Uganda). Journalists Arafat Nzito and Eddie Frank are suffering lasting effects of 2010 harassment.

February 11, 2011 4:29 PM ET

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Blog   |   Mauritius

Mauritius no heaven for news media

CPJAmerican author Mark Twain once quoted a Mauritian as saying that heaven was copied after this Indian Ocean island paradise. Mauritius is cited today as one of the few havens of press freedom in Africa, but for Raj Meetarbhan, left, editor-in-chief of the island's largest newspaper L'Express, the country is fast losing its glow.

Meetarbhan was literally shaking with anger one recent day as I walked into his newspaper's office in Riche Terre, just outside of Port Louis, the island's largest city.

February 4, 2011 1:01 PM ET

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Blog   |   Gabon

In Gabon, faux news draws real censorship

Obame after being "sworn in." The government took it seriously. (AFP)

Last week, Gabon's government-controlled National Communications Council ordered the TV station of opposition leader André Mba Obame off the air for a period of three months. The ruling is without appeal and, typically, this is how authorities in this oil-rich equatorial African state silence critical news outlets. Except that, this time, the "reporting" for which the TV station was forced off the air was not about a real event but rather the staging of a faux presidential swearing-in ceremony.

February 1, 2011 11:18 AM ET

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Blog   |   Equatorial Guinea

With abysmal press freedom record, Obiang takes AU chair

Reuters

The African Union announced on Sunday that the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, will become the new chairman in the union's yearly rotating leadership. The first debate Obiang (at left) presided over at the two-day AU conference that ends today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, concerned "shared values"--highlighting issues of democracy and good governance. Representing one of Africa's most oppressive dictatorships, with a completely stifled press, the new AU chair could hardly refer to personal experience in such a debate.

Blog   |   South Africa

In South Africa, judge orders probe into censorship at SABC

In South Africa, a judge this week ordered an official investigation into allegations that a former news executive for national public broadcaster SABC had muted critical voices and skewed coverage of major events--like the aftermath of Zimbabwe's 2005 election in favor of the ruling party. The ruling comes amid a contentious press freedom debate stirred by legislative proposals from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) that critics say would criminalize investigative journalism.

January 28, 2011 4:37 PM ET

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Blog   |   Liberia

Liberian saga: angry court, jailed editor, president's speech

As protests mounted, Sirleaf's government secured the release of jailed editor Rodney Sieh. (Aaron Leaf)

On Monday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who will contest for a second term in elections next November, used her annual speech to the legislature to strengthen her image as the candidate of stability and growth. Among other things, she boasted about winning the "Friend of the Media" award from the African Editors Forum, the first for a sitting president. But there was something else: "We are glad," she said, "that the saga over the weekend has been resolved, allowing us to continue the distinction of having no journalists or politicians in jail."

January 27, 2011 12:31 PM ET

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Blog   |   South Africa

South Africa resumes debate on secrecy bill

Protesters in Capetown decry secrecy bill. (Independent Newspapers Cape)

Parliamentary hearings on South Africa's Protection of Information Bill resumed last week with heated debate over provisions threatening to restrict press freedom and access to information. For journalists, much uncertainty remains over the final product and when it will be completed.

Blog   |   Democratic Republic of the Congo

Pastor Marrion, a Congolese fixer, needs your help

Marrion P'udongo, known as Pastor, is a widely respected African fixer who has fallen ill and needs a kidney transplant. (Bryan Mealer)

A group of international journalists is seeking donations to pay the costs of a kidney transplant for Marrion P'udongo, a Congolese fixer who has worked tirelessly with reporters from around the world to make sure his country's story is told.

January 21, 2011 1:17 PM ET

Blog   |   Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, a rare retreat in a media attack

Zimbabwean editor Golden Maunganidze reported harassment of vendors of his newspaper. (Masvingo Mirror)

In Zimbabwe, where journalists face constant harassment and repressive legislation, it's a rare occasion that the army would back off from its interference with an independent newspaper. But that's what seemed to happen this week in rural Gutu.

January 21, 2011 12:47 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ivory Coast

The struggle continues for power, and media, in Ivory Coast

Soldiers guard state television station RTI. (AFP)

In Ivory Coast, the tense post-election dispute between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and rival and self-proclaimed president-elect Alassane Ouattara is a power struggle for control of national institutions--including the sole state media outlet, Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI).

January 10, 2011 6:01 PM ET

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Blog   |   Nigeria

Another Nigerian journalist dies in strife-torn Jos

Since December 24, about 80 people have died from three bombings in Jos; seen here is a government building smoldering after a blast. (Reuters)

Augustine Sindyi, a veteran photographer for the state-owned weekly Standard newspaper in Plateau State, was walking home from work on Christmas Eve when a nearby bomb explosion killed him instantly. Sindyi resided in a busy Nigerian neighborhood near the local government offices in the center of Jos. The assailants targeted an area that would receive immeasurable damage where Sindyi happened to live, state radio reporter Murtala Sani, told me. 

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