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Back You are here: Home Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa, 17 Apr 2013

Newsletter:Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa, 17 Apr 2013

This monthly newsletter provides a snapshot of the current state of freedom of expression in Eastern Africa. It was compiled by ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa with the assistance of our partners in the respective countries. Funding support has been provided by European Union (EU): the content of the newsletter, however, does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the EU.

Unknown assailants hurl hand grenade at privately owned radio station

Unknown assailants threw a hand grenade into the premises of Radio Baidoa, in the town of Baidoa in the Bay region controlled by the Federal Government of Somalia on 1 March. No human casualties were reported, but the building was damaged. Three people were arrested by Baidoa police in connection with the bombing.
Authorities in Central Somalia shut down privately owned radio station

Authorities in Adado, a town in the Galgudud region of central Somalia, shut down the privately owned Al-Ihsan radio station on 2 March. They accused it of jeopardising peace in the town by spreading inaccurate information. However, the radio station’s management accused the authorities of targeting it as a result of its critical broadcasts: it had aired programmes about alleged corruption and mismanagement within the administration, including alleged misuse of Adado hospital equipment. The radio station resumed operations on 4 March.

Journalists beaten and briefly detained by police in Mogadishu

Mohamed Hassan Ali (reporter, Simba Radio), Sacdiyo Mohamed Hassan (reporter, Somali National Television), Mustaf Abdinur Shafane (Radio Mogadishu), Abdifatah Mohamoud Siad (cameraman, Radio Shabelle/TV), Abdulkadir Abdullahi Ga’al (reporter, Horncable Television) were allegedly assaulted by police officers when they went to cover court hearings in Mogadishu on 9 March. The journalists complained about the assaults to the Regional Court’s security chief, Major Abdullahi Gedi, who promised to take disciplinary action against the officers and asked the journalists to return to court. Unfortunately, when they returned, the same officers threatened to shoot the journalists if they went in and they were forced to leave for their own safety. The police went after them, and also beat Nor Mohamed Barre, a cameraman for Royal Television, and Bile Mire Mohamed, a reporter for Risaala Radio, before briefly detaining them. Abdirashid Abdulle Abikar who is treasurer of the National Union of Somali Journalists, received minor injuries as he tried to intervene. The journalists were released after the Regional Court chairman, Hashi Elmi Nor, intervened and ordered they be released and their equipment returned.

Puntland authorities ban three radio stations

Puntland Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture issued a decree on 21 March banning the reproduction of any programmes or materials produced by non-Puntland media, namely Radio Ergo, Radio Bar-Kulan and Radio Hirad. It was widely suspected that the ban was due to the fact that Radio Bar-Kulan and Radio Hirad occasionally aired the views of opposition politicians. However, it was not clear why Radio Ergo was targeted. Radio Ergo is a humanitarian news service based in Nairobi supported by a Danish organisation, International Media Support (IMS). Radio Hirad is based in Hargeysa and supported by Free Press Unlimited from the Netherlands and Radio Bar-kulan is a UN-funded Public broadcaster based in Nairobi and Mogadishu.

Al - Shabab militant convicted of journalist's murder

Adan Sheikh Andi Sheikh Hussein, an alleged Al-Shabab militant, was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in Somalia on 23 March for killing journalist Hassan Yusuf Absuge. The journalist, who worked for Radio Maanta as Head of Programmes, was gunned down in Mogadishu on 21 September 2012.

According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), the presiding judge said there was compelling evidence against Hussein, including the fact that he was in possession of the murder weapon. The tribunal was also shown text messages on his mobile phone in which he discussed the journalist's murder with other Al-Shabab militants. The militia group claimed responsibility for Hussein’s murder, accusing him of 'spying against Allah's forces'. This is the first case of a journalist's murder that has been successfully prosecuted.

Release of journalist who interviewed rape victim

The Supreme Court of Somalia released freelance journalist Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim after the Attorney General dropped the charges against him on 18 March. The Attorney General stated that investigators provided wrong information that was then used to convict the journalist.  Ibrahim was sentenced on 5 February to one year in prison for offending the “reputation of a national institution”, spreading “false news” and “paying money to get a false rape story” in order to disseminate it and “gain income”. The Regional Appellate Court later reduced his sentence to six months in prison.

Female journalist killed

Rahmo Abdulkadir, a female radio journalist for Radio Abudwaq, was gunned down near her house in the Towfiq area of Mogadishu on 24 March. Rahmo is the second female Somali journalist to be murdered in the country in a decade.

Journalist attacked in Dar es Salaam

Tanzania Editors Forum Chairperson Absalom Kibanda was attacked by unknown assailants a few metres from his home in Mbezi Beach on 6 March as he was waiting for a guard to open the gate. He was pulled out of his car by the assailants, who pulled out his nails and some of his teeth and pierced his left eye with a sharp object. Kibanda also suffered multiple injuries to his head and was flown to South Africa for treatment. He is the fifth journalist to be attacked in Tanzania within the last six months.

Journalist assaulted

Habil Onyango, a journalist with the Star Newspaper based in Homa Bay Town in Western Kenya, was beaten by paramilitary security personnel on 3 March as he covered a confrontation between two rival political candidates. They kicked and punched him even after he showed them his press card.

Journalist assaulted and his equipment damaged

 Ali Kalungi Ssalongo allegedly assaulted Joseph Ekol, a correspondent for the privately owned Divine FM radio station based in Lira district on 6 March. The assault took place as he was covering news at the St. Lira hotel in Northern Uganda. Ssalongo took Ekol’s recorder and deleted a recorded exchange between him and other political leaders. The politicians were attending a one-day workshop on environmental conservation for leaders in District 6 organised by the Water and Environment Ministry at the hotel.
Envoy demands USD 385,059 over defamation

Uganda's High Commissioner to Rwanda, Ambassador Richard Kabonero filed two civil suits at the High Court in Kampala on 27 March. He demanded USD 385,059 damages from a local tabloid, Red Pepper and its sister publication Hello, claiming they published defamatory articles about him. Kabonero also asked the court to permanently restrain the two newspapers from publishing articles that cast him in a bad light. The articles concerned ran in Red Pepper on 24 December 2012 and in Hello on 1 and 8 March 2013. Kabonero claims that the publications did not verify their articles and that they were driven by a desire to make a profit and taint his reputation. He argued that, due to the articles, he has become an object of ridicule in his family and society at large. Kabanero further alleges that these articles have inspired several blogs and internet articles, which have put him under intense social media spotlight.

Media law promulgated

The Rwandan government adopted Law N°02/2013 on regulating the media on 11 March, which paved the way for self-regulation by the print media. In its analysis, ARTICLE 19 noted that the law does provide some safeguards for freedom of the press; however, it contains too many provisions which pose a threat to journalists and to the independence of the media, including online media. Full analysis can be found at
Editor fails in appeal

Rwanda’s appellate court upheld on 26 March the one-year prison sentence for Stanley Gatera, editor of Kinyarwanda-language independent weekly Umusingi. Gatera had been convicted in November 2012 on charges of "inciting divisionism" and "gender discrimination." He had been charged following complaints from women's groups after he published an article suggesting that men might regret marrying an ethnic Tutsi woman solely for her beauty.

Blogger detained

Befeqadu Hailu, a prominent blogger and Amharic editor and translator for Global Voices, was arrested and forced to spend a night in jail on 17 March. Hailu was arrested while taking photos at a demonstration. The demonstration was a protest against the commemoration of Rudolfo Graziani, who is said to have taken part in killing Ethiopians in the 1930s. While in detention, Hailu was forced to divulge the user names and passwords for his Facebook, email and blog accounts. He was also made to sign a confession stating that he had participated in an illegal demonstration.

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