CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Tom Rhodes

Tom Rhodes is CPJ's East Africa representative, based in Nairobi. Rhodes is a founder of southern Sudan’s first independent newspaper. Follow him on Twitter: @africamedia_CPJ

2012


Blog   |   Djibouti

In Djibouti, journalist defiant despite revolving jail door

Djibouti President Ismael Omar Guelleh addresses the media after his re-election in April 2011. (AP)

Online journalist Houssein Ahmed Farah spent more than three months in jail in Djibouti before an appeals court finally released him in November--after his defense requested bail three times, Houssein said. His crime? Officially nothing. "It appears to have been an arbitrary arrest because there is still no evidence on file," Houssein told me. He said he was accused of distributing identity cards for the opposition, but he has not been charged with a crime.

December 27, 2012 11:53 AM ET

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Blog   |   Kenya, Somalia

Somalis in Kenya hounded by security forces, refugee policy

Somali refugees in Kenya are ordered to report to the Dadaab refugee camp, which already holds more than 450,000 people. (Mohamed Abdi)

Exiled Somali journalists living in Nairobi were struck with disbelief this week when daily newspapers published a statement by the Department of Refugee Affairs ordering all Somali refugees to move to refugee camps. "The refugees, particularly those living in urban centers, are contributing to insecurity in the country," the statement read. The acting commissioner for refugee affairs, Badu Katelo, said aid agencies including the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) must stop providing aid to those outside the camps. 

Blog   |   Rwanda

Jailed Rwandan editors turn to African Commission

Saidati Mukakibib, left, and Agnes Uwimana Nkusi sit in Rwandan Supreme Court in January 2012. (AFP/Steve Terrill)

Among the 232 journalists imprisoned around the world are Rwandan editors Agnès Uwimana and Saidati Mukakibibi, who are serving years-long terms on charges they defamed the president, Paul Kagame, and incited violence. Their crime? The women had published a series of stories in 2010 on several sensitive issues the Kagame government doesn't want scrutinized. The articles criticized government agricultural policy, examined the July 2010 murder of journalist Jean-Léonard Rugambage, described the falling-out between Kagame and two now-exiled military leaders, probed divisions within the army, and pushed for justice for ethnic Hutus killed in the 1994 genocide. The editors have exhausted domestic appeals, but now a team of defense lawyers is pursuing a complaint with the African Commission on Human and People's Rights on grounds that Rwanda violated its obligations to ensure freedom of expression and the right to fair trial.

Blog   |   Somalia

As impunity reigns in Somalia, president takes note

Friends and relatives carry the body of Abdisatar Daher Sabriye, a  journalist with state-run television who died in a September 20 suicide bomb attack. (AP/Mohamed Sheikh Nor)

In October, two gunmen shot Shabelle Media Network reporter Mohamed Mohamud as he left a mosque one evening; he died from the gunshot wounds less than one week later. Several members of the Somali armed forces who happened to be at the scene opened fire on his assailants, local journalists said, but Mohamed's killers have still not been identified.

Blog   |   South Africa

South African Secrecy Bill kept at bay, for now

A protest against the Protection of Information Bill outside parliament in Cape Town, November 22, 2011. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

South African journalists and civil society groups were uneasy this month amid rumors that the Protection of State Information Bill, commonly known as the Secrecy Bill, would pass the Upper House of parliament, the last step before a presidential signature. Since 2008, journalists and civil society have lobbied against the bill, which many fear would spell the end of investigative journalism. A number of these fears have been alleviated by nearly 200 amendments to the draft since its inception, according to the communications director of the ruling African National Congress's (ANC) parliamentary caucus, Moloto Mothapo.

Blog   |   South Sudan

McClatchy's Boswell caught in South Sudan's war of words

Alan Boswell (Courtesy Boswell)

A day before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited South Sudan this month, McClatchy correspondent Alan Boswell reported that President Salva Kiir had finally acknowledged his government's support for a Nuba Mountains-based group that had been skirmishing with Sudanese forces. In a letter to his U.S. counterpart, the story said, Kiir apologized for his previous denials, which came in the face of U.S. intelligence to the contrary. The story, which exposed an important element in the tense relations between the two once-joined nations, put Boswell in the cross-hairs.

Blog   |   Somalia

Mogadishu comic is latest Somali media death

Abdi Jeylani Malaq (Hiiran Online)

All the radio stations wanted him, and for good reason--Abdi Jeylani Malaq was one of the most famous comedians in Mogadishu, and it was the holy month of Ramadan when the radio broadcasters hold quiz shows. Abdi had been in the business since 1989 and was in hot demand as a commentator for the competitions. He had just finished one such quiz show Tuesday evening at Radio Kulmiye, in the capital's central region, and had left the station for home when two gunmen shot him five times in the chest and head, local journalists told me. He was pronounced dead from blood loss at Medani Hospital and was buried Thursday. "He was a great friend for me and for all Somali journalists," recounted Abdalla Ahmed, a reporter for the private Mogadishu station Radio Risaale. 

Blog   |   Ethiopia

Ethiopians still looking for answers on Meles

Since I published a blog last week on the lack of information about the health and whereabouts of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, readers have deluged it with comments (over 175 as of today), reflecting the pent-up interest in the premier's status and deeply divided views of his leadership.

July 30, 2012 4:33 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ethiopia

Where is Meles Zenawi? Ethiopians don't know.

Rumors abound about the health and whereabouts of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. (AFP/Simon Maina)

If you search for the name of Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, on Twitter these days, you'll see a flurry of incongruent postings: Meles is hospitalized in critical condition; he's fine and returning to work; he died two weeks ago; he's on holiday. Journalists for international news outlets have tried to sort out fact from rumor, but they've gotten no help from Ethiopian government officials who offered only vague assurances that the country's longtime leader was ill but recovering. In Ethiopia, where the government has imposed increasingly repressive measures on the domestic press corps, news coverage has been minimal and contradictory.

International news outlets, such as ReutersThe Associated Press, and the BBC, reported last week that Meles was hospitalized for an undisclosed condition. Reuters, citing diplomatic sources, said he was being treated in Brussels, although even that scant nugget of information was not officially confirmed.

Blog   |   Uganda

Ugandan press finds unexpected ally in judiciary

Police confront Daily Monitor journalist Yusufu Muziransa. (Daily Monitor)

With a medical drip attached to his hand, camped outside police headquarters along Parliamentary Avenue in Uganda' capital, Kampala, William Ntege was determined to get his video cameras back. Police had beaten Ntege, a journalist with the private broadcaster WBS, and damaged two of his cameras as he covered elections last year, according to local reports.  "I am here for my two cameras that were destroyed by the Ugandan police. We are fed up," read a placard Ntege held up to passing police and the public last week before being invited in by the police for negotiations, according to local journalists. 

Blog   |   Somalia

Mission Journal: Somaliland's press harassed, disappointed

Abdiweli Farah and Mohamed Abdi Jama, chief editors of Ogaal and Waheen, respectively, say the government has not lived up to its promises. (CPJ/Tom Rhodes)

"I'm free but I don't feel free," said Mohamed Abdi Urad, chief editor of Yool, a critical weekly published in the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland. Mohamed had just been released on May 22 after a week in detention at Hargeisa Central Police Station. His crime? "I have no idea," he said. Mohamed had attempted to cover a deadly skirmish between civilians and a military unit over a land dispute in the eastern part of the capital, Hargeisa. "The Interior Minister just saw me walking towards the scene and ordered his men to arrest me," he said. A few days later, police released Mohamed unconditionally and without charge.

Blog   |   Uganda

Amid assaults on press, Uganda police promise reforms

Ugandan journalists protest on World Press Freedom Day in 2011. (Edward Echwalu)

Joseph Mutebi, a photojournalist for the popular vernacular state-owned daily Bukedde, spent his afternoon trying to file a complaint with the police in the capital, Kampala. "First they told me the officer who assaulted me was based at another station, so I went there and now they are telling me he is based at the police station where I originally went. So I am confused. I think they are just playing with me." Mutebi's case is not uncommon--both in terms of the constant threat journalists face from Uganda's police force and the challenges they encounter trying to file a complaint.

Blog   |   China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe

China's media footprint in Kenya

CCTV's East Africa operations are headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. (CCTV)

Will China's quickly expanding media presence in Africa result in a fresh, alternative, and balanced perspective on the continent--much as Al-Jazeera altered the broadcast landscape with the launch of its English service in 2006--or will it be essentially an exercise in propaganda?

May 7, 2012 4:17 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ethiopia

Blogger fights terror charges as Ethiopian leader praised

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at a conference in London in February. Western governments are hesitant to press Ethiopia on human rights abuses. (AP/Jason Reed)

Last week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, while Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was making a speech about Africa's growth potential at an African Union forum, a journalist who his administration has locked away since September on bogus terrorism charges was presenting his defense before a judge. Eskinder Nega has been one of the most outspoken critics of Meles' domestic leadership over the past two decades and has suffered imprisonment, intimidation, and censorship for it.

Blog   |   South Sudan

Corruption a no-go zone for South Sudan's journalists

Pagan Amum, secretary-general of South Sudan's ruling party, was awarded defamation damages from two newspapers who reported on a corruption case. (CPJ)

Last week, South Sudan's ruling party secretary-general, Pagan Amum, won an important court battle, absolving him of allegations that he received a $30 million corrupt payment in 2006. The accusations came from former Finance Minister Arthur Akuien Chol, who alleged earlier this year that he had received orders from "above" to transfer the public money, according to local reports. The court acquitted Amum based on insufficient evidence. The money, however, remains unaccounted for, according to local reports. And the odds of any journalist in South Sudan investigating the matter further are slim.

March 28, 2012 6:12 PM ET

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Blog   |   Malawi

A bad weekend for Malawian journalists

The government of Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika, pictured, has threatened journalists with fines and arrests for disrespecting him. (AFP/Alexander Joe)

No media outlet critical of President Bingu Wa Mutharika or the ruling Democratic Progressive Party was spared by the government this past weekend -- whether print, broadcast, or online. The broadside included a public campaign to discredit the media as well as threats of fines and arrests of critical journalists.

Blog   |   Kenya

The hazards of reporting all sides of the Lamu port story

Lamu town on Lamu island, which will be home to a major port project. (Lamu Studios)

Freelance photographer Abdalla Bargash had accompanied Kenya's permanent secretary for transport, Cyrus Njiru, to cover a meeting with Lamu community members over the newly constructed Lamu port. The Kililana Farmers' Association are concerned that the major construction on the once-sleepy island of Lamu off Kenya's coast could encroach on their farmland. 

March 8, 2012 6:32 PM ET

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Blog   |   Rwanda, Sweden

Rwandan exiled journalist comes out of hiding

Gasasira in exile. (Gasasira)

I must have received at least a dozen communications from worried friends and colleagues, asking the whereabouts of the chief editor of the highly critical Rwandan website, Umuvugizi. By mid-January, no one had heard from John Bosco Gasasira, nothing new had been published on Umuvugizi since January 11, and his cell phones were switched off. Last week, concerned colleagues wrote a public letter expressing concern over their missing colleague.

February 16, 2012 3:08 PM ET

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Blog   |   South Sudan

Attack on South Sudan reporter sparks critical debate

Mading Ngor says his ejection from parliament is receiving unwarranted attention given the number of journalist assaults in South Sudan. (AP)

February is the hottest month in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and Mading Ngor, a reporter and presenter for the Catholic-owned Bakhita FM, trudged his way through the heat to cover parliament proceedings last week--only to be thrown unceremoniously out of the assembly. "Before I had time to argue, four security guards pinned me to the ground and dragged me across the floor, tearing up my trousers," Ngor, a hard-hitting, critical journalist, told me.

February 14, 2012 4:21 PM ET

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Blog   |   Uganda

Uganda's radio closures uncover lack of independence

Former Minister Kabakumba Masiko resigned after her private radio station was found to have been illegally using UBC equipment. (CPJ)

Ugandan police have shuttered 13 broadcasters since December, accusing them of misusing power supplies and equipment belonging to the state-run Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC). The widespread allegations of corrupt deals between the state broadcaster and ostensibly private stations reveal more than illicit transactions--they expose a lack of independence within Uganda's broadcast sector.