The Kenyan press is being caught in the crossfire as authorities seek to strengthen defenses against terrorists. On December 19, Kenya's president signed into law a security bill that has the power to stop the press covering terror attacks. The government has also recently criticized the media over allegations that special units are carrying out extra-judicial killings, and a local journalist who reports on security issues has gone into hiding after receiving threats.
On December 15 last year, fighting that broke out between supporters of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar--who had been vice president until Kiir fired the entire Cabinet--escalated into a civil war that has increased pressure on an already fragile independent press.
When the BBC released in early October its televised documentary "Rwanda's Untold Story," which questioned official accounts of the 1994 genocide, a massive outcry inside and outside Rwanda's borders ensued. Locals and foreigners alike protested the documentary's findings, parliamentarians demanded a ban and legal action, and authorities summarily suspended BBC's vernacular Kinyarwanda news service, the Kinyarwanda Great Lakes Service, indefinitely on October 24. While some local journalists denounced and others applauded the BBC's conclusions, few supported the ban on the nationwide news service.
If the state decides that a journalist's article in Burundi jeopardizes someone's "moral integrity" under the country's Media Law it can demand that the journalist reveals sources, and it can suspend the publication. "It's a backwards, freedom-killing law," said Alexandre Niyungeko, the founder and head of the 300-member Burundi Union of Journalists. Despite the press fraternity's best efforts, including an appeal replete with 15,000 signatures from organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, urging the president to desist from signing it, President Pierre Nkurunziza passed the bill into law on June 4, 2013.
Five independent magazines and a weekly newspaper have been charged by Ethiopia's Justice Ministry, a move that may add to the long lists of shuttered publications and Ethiopian journalists in exile. In a press release issued August 4, the ministry accused the journals of publishing false information, inciting violence, and undermining public confidence in the government, news reports said.
The ministry said it pressed charges after running out of patience with the publications for "encouraging radicalism and terrorism." The state broadcaster aired the ministry's announcement, but none of the publications received the charge sheet, local journalists told me. The six independent publications are Afro Times, a weekly newspaper, and magazines Addis Guday, Enku, Fact, Jano, and Lomi. All are popular alternatives to the state-run press, which espouses an increasingly positive narrative. Local journalists and news reports said the charges could be a way for the ruling party to silence critics ahead of elections expected in May 2015.
Today, the Committee to Protect Journalists in collaboration with local media organizations launched a journalist security guide and protocol designed specifically for the Kenyan press. The initiative stems from research conducted in 2013 by the same group of organizations, the Kenya Media Working Group, in light of acute and unique security challenges for the Kenyan press coming to light that year.
CPJ is among a group of more than 40 regional and international press freedom and civil society organizations that have signed a joint letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn expressing concern over the recent imprisonment of Ethiopian journalists under the country's far-reaching 2009 anti-terrorism law.
"If they cannot indoctrinate you into their thinking, they fire you," said one former staff member of the state-run Oromia Radio and Television Organization (ORTO), who was dismissed from work last month after six years of service. "Now we are in hiding since we fear they will find excuses to arrest us soon," the journalist, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, told CPJ.
Less than a year later, Lepage's body was found in a car in the Central African Republic, according to news reports citing the French government. She had been traveling with fighters of the anti-Balaka Christian militia and was killed in an ambush, the reports said.
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1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.