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Newsletter Freedom of Expression in East Africa 12 November 2013

 Article 19

12 November 2013

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


Reporter offered "conditional release" 

On 22 October 2013, Hassan Ruvakuki, a radio reporter who was released on "health grounds" in March after 15 months in prison, was granted a formal "conditional release" allowing him to return to work. The Justice Ministry ordered his release having reached an agreement with Ruvakuki, who withdrew his appeal against his conviction. Given that he had served more than a quarter of his sentence, the Ministry finally decided that his release would remain conditional for a period twice as long as the remainder of his sentence.

Tanzanian media boycotts coverage of government officials

On 9 October 2013, media stakeholders in Tanzania declared a blackout on the Information, Youth, Culture and Sports Minister, Fenella Mukangara, and the Director of Information Services, Assah Mwambene. The decision not to cover events organised or attended by these officials was reached at a meeting attended by representatives from various media houses. The move was designed to convey the media's disappointment with the government decision not to rescind a ban on the Mwananchi, and Mtanzania newspapers. The government issued a notice, No.333 of 27 September 2013, banning Mwanachi and Mtanzania from any type of publication.


Bomb attack on radio station

On 15 October 2013, unknown men hurled two hand grenades at the Radio Daljir building in Galkayo before speeding off. The news director, editors, reporters and a guard were in the building at the time, preparing for the evening broadcast. Whilst no one was injured, the explosion destroyed a wall at the radio station and damaged a staff vehicle. Eyewitness said that the perpetrators were driving a sedan car without license plates. This is not the first time that Radio Daljir or its Galkayo branch has been attacked.Galkayo journalists have suffered violent attacks in the past two years.

Government forces raid and ransack prominent independent media outlets

On 26 October 2013, security personnel cordoned off the building hosting Radio Shabelle and Sky FM, both part of the Shabelle Media Network. The police restricted workers trying to get in and out of the building before breaking down the gate using a terrorist response police vehicle and forcefully entering the building. The security forces beat journalists with the butts of their guns. Radio Shabelle was on air during the attack and the public could hear the beatings and noise inside the studio until the police violently disabled the computer servers and radio transmission equipment and then shut down the generators, effectively halting broadcasting indefinitely. Journalists working for Shabelle Media were arrested but later released.

Journalist killed in Mogadishu

On 22 October 2013, Universal TV journalist Mohamed Mohamud Timacadde was shot and seriously wounded by unidentified gunmen in Mogadishu. The journalist was attacked by men armed with pistols shortly after he left his home at Wadajir district in Mogadishu in the morning. The assailants, who were in a car, crashed into the journalist’s car. When he stopped his car to find out what was going on, the assailants immediately started shooting him.They shot him six times in the head, chest, stomach and shoulder. The journalist was rushed to Medina Hospital with critical injuries and died four days later.

Somaliland authorities arrests journalists

3 October 2013, two journalists working in Las Anod for UK-based television stations remained in detention having been arrested separately on 1 October for allegedly reporting false information. Somaliland’s regional authorities accused Mohamed Shaquelle Ashur of Somsat TV and Adan Mohamed Karama of Universal TV of improperly covering a clean-up operation to close down unlicensed market stalls and cafes in a busy commercial area. Las Anod’s Mayor, Abdiqadir Huhule, confirmed the arrests and said the journalists were being held at Las Anod Central Prison.


Court awards Standard Group 58,000 USD over illegal raid

On 18 October 2013, the Kenyan High Court ruled that the infamous raid on the Standard Group seven years ago had been illegal and ordered the government to pay 58,000 USD in damages. Standard Group had sued the former Attorney General (AG) Amos Wako, Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali and National Security Minister John Michuki. The Standard Group took the government to court to seek damages over the attack on its offices on 1 March 2006. The media network sought declarations that the entry, search and other acts perpetrated by the officers at the Standard’s premises were unlawful, illegal and in breach of the company’s fundamental rights and freedoms under the Constitution.

Journalists threatened

On 6 October 2013, two Kenyan journalists reported that they had been threatened by a local politician over stories that they filed separately. Samuel Karanja of the Nation Media Group published a story after a public outcry over the misuse of Muranga county vehicles in Kenya. The Muranga governor made a threatening phone call to Samuel Karanja warning him of the dire consequences of portraying the county in a negative light. In a separate but clearly related incident, a journalist from the Media Max media group, George Kimani, was also threatened about the same issue. The two journalists reported the incidents to a local police station.

Kenyan Member of Parliament sues media networks for defamation

On 2 October 2013, a Kenyan Member of Parliament, Mr. Njoroge Baiya, sued two media networks for implicating him in the claim for higher pay for legislators. Baiya says The Standard and Daily Nation, two of Kenya’s leading newspapers, published stories misleadingly suggesting that he was leading the campaign and holding meetings with fellow members of parliament to press for higher salaries and allowances. The MP says that, on the contrary, he has never been in electoral politics for the sake of salaries and allowances. He says he has no motivation in calling for higher pay since he understands that it is the Salaries and Remuneration Commission alone that reviews payments for public officers. The articles in question appeared on 21 and 24 March 2013.

Kenyan police demand journalists’ arrest over Westgate story

On 23 October 2013, Kenya’s Inspector General (IG) David Kimaiyo disclosed plans to arrest individual journalists over alleged propaganda in the wake of the terror attack at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. He said that they were specifically targeting KTN journalists whom he accused of incitement and propaganda, citing the Police Acts and the Constitution which, in his view, stipulate limitations on freedom of speech. KTN aired a news feature exposing misconduct by Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) during the operation against terrorists who had attacked an upmarket mall in Nairobi. CCTV footage allegedly shows KDF soldiers looting from the shops in the mall. The feature also sharply criticised the role and conduct of Kenya’s security forces. The arrest warrant was eventually withdrawn.


Police spokesperson obstructs journalists from covering arrest of opposition leader

On 10 October 2013, a senior Ugandan police officer, Patrick Onyango, manhandled a journalist and prevented him from filming video footage of the arrest of Uganda’s opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye, at the 51st National Independence celebrations at Rukungiri District Stadium in Rukungiri, Western Uganda. Onyango, the Deputy Police spokesperson, grabbed the hands of Ggaliwango, a journalist with the Nation Media Group-owned NTV, as the police arrested and whisked away Besigye, along with the capital’s Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago, and a Kawempe Division Mayor, Mubarak Munyagwa Sserunga, all of whom had walked out of the stadium in which President Yoweri Museveni was due to address the public.

Vision Group journalist detained by police for four days

On 6 October 2013, a journalist working with the government-owned television station, Urban TV in Kampala, was detained by police for four days without being arraigned in court. Jude Okech Jorum was arrested on 1 October 2013 at Naluvule in the Wakiso district as he covered the story of a disagreement between two orphanages. He was accused of criminal trespass.


Ethio-Mihidar journalists taken to court 

On 21 October 2013, Hawassa University filed charges against Ethio-Mihidar, a weekly Amharic, Newspaper for defaming the reputation of the university. The newspaper published a story on 25 June 25 2013 entitled “Hawassa University Management Member Found Red-Handed involved in Corruption”. The university filed charges against the newspaper, the editor-in-chief, Getachew Worku, and the Managing Director, Million Deginew. The University asked for compensation of 100,000 birr from each, in addition to asking for the newspaper’s licence to be cancelled. The charge was brought in Hawassa (the capital of the Southern Peoples Nations and Nationalities’ region) on 25 September 2013 (three months after the story was published) and the hearing, which began in Hawassa Court on 21 October 2013, is still ongoing.

Journalist called in for questioning

On 3rd October 2013, journalist Dawit Solomon was called in for questioning by the Ethiopian police. Dawit, who is Editor-in-chief of Life Magazine and editor of, an online news site, was called to the infamous Maekelawi police station for investigation. He was told in a letter that the police wanted to investigate him over something he had published in the magazine, though the specific publication was not mentioned. He was told that the President of the Awash bank, Tsehay Shiferaw, had filed defamation charges against him. This was in reference to a story alleging that the bank’s president had borrowed money from the bank illegally and used the money to build two houses.

Police arrest Amharic Reporter managing editor

On 10 October 2013, Melaku Demissie, Managing Editor of the Reporter, an Amharic newspaper, was taken into custody by Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPR) police. Melaku was arrested over a news report that was published on the front page of the Reporter entitled “SNNPR Deputy Presidents removed from post”. The news report was retracted in the next edition of the newspaper as it was found incorrect. Despite the retraction the managing editor was still arrested.

Reeyot Alemu denied visit

On 25 October 2013, Reeyot Alemu was denied a visit by her lawyer. This followed sentiments sent by Reyoot to the African Union Commission 54th human rights session held in Gambia,in which she condemned “the Ethiopian Anti-Terrorism law being used inappropriately by the government.” Reyoot was sentenced to 14 years in prison on 5 October 2011. On appeal her sentence was reduced to five years.