Attacks on the Press in 2008 - Africa Developments
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||10 February 2009|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2008 - Africa Developments, 10 February 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4992c4a2c.html [accessed 21 April 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
- Three journalists for national state broadcaster Rádio Nacional de Angola were suspended indefinitely in October after questioning President José dos Santos' ministerial choices. The president had appointed the ministers after his party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, won a landslide victory in a September parliamentary election. Political commentator Victor Silva, anchor Amílcar Xavier, and editor Andeiro João were suspended, the state broadcaster said.
- Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, director of the online news agency Net Press, was arrested on September 11 and charged with defamation, according to local journalists and Human Rights Watch. Philippe Nzobonariba, a top administration official, filed a defamation suit after an August 10 article criticized the amount of money spent on a presidential trip to Beijing for the Olympics. Kavumbagu appealed the charges, but no court date had been set in late year. He was being held in Mpimba Central Prison in the capital, Bujumbura.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
- Authorities in the capital, Bangui, detained Faustin Bambou, editor of the private weekly Les Collines de l'Oubangui, in connection with an editorial alleging the embezzlement of public funds. Detained in January, Bambou was charged with incitement to disturbance, revolt against public institutions, and defamation. He was sentenced to six months in prison but was released on a presidential pardon after 43 days behind bars, according to news reports and local journalists.
- Police in the capital, N'djamena, shut down FM Liberté, a station launched by local human rights activists, in January. Director Lazare Djekourninga Kaoutar was detained for two days and released without charge, according to local journalists and news reports. Police accused station managers of broadcasting "false" news after the on-air reading of a petition that alleged corrupt practices in the issuance of national identity documents. The station was allowed to resume broadcasting in June.
- In February, after a deadly rebel raid on N'djamena, authorities banned coverage of the armed rebellion and any information "endangering national unity," as part of a nationwide state of emergency. The communications minister at the time, Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor, called the restrictions justifiable wartime measures and accused independent newspapers of being "relays of the aggressors," according to local journalists and news reports. Fearing government reprisals, at least 14 independent journalists temporarily went into hiding in neighboring Cameroon and Nigeria, according to CPJ research. The same month, President Idriss Deby issued a decree that effectively criminalized critical reporting on sensitive topics such as the armed rebellion and ethnic relations.
- In March, the government withdrew the work permit of French freelance journalist Sonia Rolley without explanation, forcing her to leave the country, according to international news reports. Rolley was the only permanent foreign correspondent in the country at the time. In a telephone interview with CPJ in June, new Communications Minister Mahamat Hissène said he had no information on Rolley's expulsion.
- In March, the state-run National Communications Council suspended the private twice-monthly Tendance Gabon for three months after accusing the paper of spreading "a campaign of denigration" against President Omar Bongo, local journalists said. The paper had republished a report on Bongo's French assets that first appeared in the French daily Le Monde.
- Claude Ada Mboula, a cameraman with the private broadcaster Télé Africa, was hospitalized in April after police assaulted him during an antigovernment march in the capital, Libreville, according to news reports and local journalists. Officers also seized his camera after he filmed police as they roughed up the leader of a demonstration against rising prices. Mboula suffered three broken ribs, news reports said.
- Police raided the offices of pro-opposition Radio Gold FM in Accra and roughed up three staff members in August, the Media Foundation for West Africa reported. The raid came after the station interviewed an activist for the ruling National Patriot's Party who was accused of vote-rigging in local elections. Police denied conducting a raid, saying they had simply visited the station after receiving a robbery report.
- The state-run National Communications Council suspended private weeklies La Vérité and L'Observateur for three months beginning in January. Staffers were barred from working as journalists for the same period. The council accused the papers of "continually publishing insulting, contemptuous, and defamatory articles" of a nature to "manipulate public opinion." Management of the papers told CPJ that the ruling was linked to stories critical of top government officials.
- The National Broadcasting Council indefinitely suspended the FM broadcasts of the French government-funded Radio France Internationale in February. Frank Kouassi, the secretary-general, said the council had acted because the station had not assigned a permanent correspondent in the country. Authorities lifted the ban in May after the appointment of Norbert Navarro as correspondent. Navarro was the station's first permanent correspondent since Jean Hélène, who was fatally shot in 2003.
- In August, parliament unanimously adopted legislation against xenophobia, racism, and tribalism. The measure sets prison terms up to 20 years for offenses committed in any medium, according to international news reports. Some human rights experts expressed concerns about possible abuse of the law's sweeping provisions, according to Inter-Press Service.
- The Communications Authority suspended private radio broadcaster Harvest FM for three months beginning in July, station lawyer Haae Phoofolo told CPJ. The decision stemmed from defamation complaints filed by two government officials. Police Commissioner Malejaka Letooane filed a complaint after the station reported that a suspect had died in police custody. The other complaint came from a top Communications Ministry official, Tseliso Mokela, who said the station's popular talk show, "Rise and Shine," was critical of the agency.
- The government announced plans in February to establish a media council to monitor press ethics and address complaints from the public about news reports. Information and Broadcasting Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah made the announcement in keeping with a congressional resolution drafted by the ruling SWAPO party. By late year, however, the government had yet to follow through on establishing the council.
- On August 5, Namibians woke to news of the death of the prominent journalist Hannes "Smittie" Smith, co-founder and lifetime editor of the weekly Windhoek Observer. He succumbed to Alzheimer's disease at age 75. Smith, who spent 30 years at the Windhoek Observer, spoke out against injustice at a time when it was unpopular to do so. He often came into conflict with the Afrikaner hierarchy during the days of apartheid.
- In February, 10 armed men infiltrated a workshop attended by 40 journalists in Iyaganku. Disguised as workshop participants, the assailants beat the journalists and stole their personal property, according to local news reports. No arrests were reported, according to The Vanguard newspaper.
- Four American documentary filmmakers and a Nigerian citizen were arrested by the Nigerian military in Delta State in April. The Seattle-based film crew spent a week in custody without charge, according to the film's director, Sandy Cioffi. The crew was filming a documentary about the conflict between the government and armed groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
- State security agents in the southern town of Port Harcourt detained freelance U.S. filmmaker Andrew Berends and his translator, Nigerian Samuel George, in August. Berends was released after 36 hours but was forced to undergo 10 days of questioning before being deported. George was freed after five days in custody but was interrogated for another three weeks. A military spokesman said the two were detained after filming a Nigerian military deployment without clearance, an assertion that Berends disputed.
- In October, state security agents arrested political blogger Jonathan Elendu as he arrived at the Abuja airport from the United States. Elendu, editor of the Lansing, Mich.-based Web site ElenduReports, was held incommunicado and without charge for 10 days – well beyond the 48-hour limit set by Nigerian law for pretrial detention. Security service spokesman Kenechukwu Onyeogu told CPJ that Elendu had been "invited" for questioning on national security matters linked to his reports. Speaking to CPJ after his release, Elendu said agents had questioned him about his alleged links to a Nigerian political blog SaharaReporters, his sources of information, his finances, and his political opinions.
- The same month, security agents picked up political blogger Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe as he arrived at the Lagos airport from the United States. A security service spokesman told CPJ that Asiwe, editor of the Arlington, Mass.-based HuhuOnline, was "questioned over matters of national security." He was released without charge after being held incommunicado for eight days. Asiwe was ordered to report periodically to the security service, according to defense lawyer Babalola Akimwumi.
REPUBLIC OF CONGO
- In July, police in Pointe Noire detained Télé Pour Tous News Director Christian Perrin overnight. Perrin was charged with broadcasting false news and incitement to revolution in connection with a political debate in which participants compared President Denis Sassou-Nguesso to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. In August, a court in Pointe Noire fined Perrin 500,000 CFA francs (US$1,100), his lawyer told CPJ.
- The director and a staff member of the Society for Democratic Initiatives (SDI), a Sierra Leone media advocacy group, received death threats after publishing a report on press conditions in October. Director Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai and Information Officer John Baimba Sesay received threatening phone calls nearly every day in October, Abdulai told CPJ. The threats came after SDI released a report titled "The State of the Sierra Leone Media: A Year of Velvet Glove" that was widely circulated in the media in Sierra Leone. SDI filed a complaint with police in Freetown, Abdulai told CPJ.
- In January, freelance journalist Hein Coetzee was arrested after reporting on police brutality at a raid east of Cape Town. In the article, published in the local newspaper Kaapse Son, Coetzee accused police of manhandling, slapping, and threatening citizens. He was charged with a number of crimes; all of the charges were eventually dropped.
- The minister of information banned the private weekly MwanHalisi for three months beginning in October for "inciting public hatred of the president." Police also interrogated the newspaper's managing editor, Saed Kubenea, and charged him with sedition. The case stemmed from a front-page story describing a purported plot to oust President Jakaya Kikwete, according to Information Minister George Mkuchika. The criminal case was pending in late year.
- In February, the High Authority on Broadcasting and Communication indefinitely banned all commentary by Nana FM journalist Daniel Lawson-Drackey, a media activist. The ruling accused Drackey of violating journalistic ethics but did not detail the incriminating comments. Local journalists told CPJ that they believed the ruling was an attempt to silence Drackey for his critical opinions.
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