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Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in East Africa 3 October 2013

Article19

3 October 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.

Rwanda

Police quiz editor on reshuffle story

On 6 September, police interrogated Joseph Bakunzumuremyi, the managing editor of umuryango.com, for four hours. They wanted to know his source about an impending reshuffle of top police officers in Rwanda. Bakunzumuremyi declined to reveal his sources citing professional responsibilities and was later released.

Journalists elect representatives to Media Commission

On September 26, the Rwandan media fraternity elected its first ever Board/Ethics committee for the Rwandan Media Commission. The new board takes over from the Interim Self-Regulatory Committee which was elected in March 2013 after the publication of Rwandan Media Law N°02/2013. The Board is made up of four members drawn from the media fraternity and three members from civil society, the private sector and universities.

Somalia

Puntland administration bans private T.V station

On 21 September, Puntland’s Minister of Information, Communications, Culture and Heritage, Ahmed Sheikh Jama Yusuf, banned Universal Television from operating in the area. The U.K-based private television station was banned for not broadcasting a speech made by Abdurahman Mohamed Farole, the regional administration’s President, during the New Deal for Somalia meeting in Brussels. The ban is for an indefinite period.In a letter to Universal Television, the Minister accused the station of “transgressions,” “hostility” towards Puntland and of violating the “ethical values of journalism”. He also threatened its journalists with dire consequences should they not comply with the ban.

Puntland lifts ban on local radio stations

On 27 September, Puntland’s Minister of Information, Communications, Culture and Heritage, Ahmed Sheikh Jama Yusuf, lifted a 6-month ban on the radio stations Bar-kulan, Ergo and Hirad. The three stations were banned from broadcasting in March 2013.

Two reporters wounded in suicide bombing

On 7 September, Mohamed Hasan Ali, a reporter for Haatuf Radio and Shucey Awil Dahir, a reporter for Kulmiye Radio, were wounded in a suicide bombing that killed at least 18 people at the Village restaurant in Mogadishu. Both were treated at the local hospital and discharged.The Village restaurant is a popular meeting place for journalists in Mogadishu and has been regularly targeted by suicide bombers. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Gunmen attack journalist

On 27 September, unidentified gunmen attacked Yasiin Mohamed Ali, a journalist and former director of Somalisat TV near Buulaxubey village in the Wadajir district of Somalia’s Banadir region. The gunmen opened fire on Yassin’s car but he managed to speed off without getting hurt. The motive for the attack is unknown.

Kenya

Reporter threatened

On 6 September, Robert Wanyonyi, a Kenya Television Network (KTN) reporter based in Bungoma, Western Kenya, received threats following a story he filed about the mistreatment of a patient at a local district hospital. The reporter received two phone calls warning him of the dire consequences for filing negative stories about the Bungoma District Hospital. He reported the threats to the police. On 4 August, KTN had aired a story in which a woman was forced to give birth on the hospital floor due to lack of medical attention from the hospital nurses. The news footage went on to show the woman being harassed by incensed hospital nurses for giving birth on the hospital floor.

Police harass journalists and confiscate his camera.

On 26 September, Leonard Njeru, a journalist working with Koch FM, a community-based radio station in Kenya’s Korogocho slums, was arrested by police. Njeru was covering a police shootout in the slum in which a police officer shot dead an 8-year-old girl. Realising that the journalist was documenting the shootout, the police arrested and detained him before later releasing him, though his camera was confiscated. The journalist reported the incident to the local police after which the camera was returned. The memory card was however confiscated.

Journalists allowed back into Media Centre

On 25 September, Kenyan journalists were allowed back into parliament’s Media Centre. The Centre was closed on 5 June after Members of Parliament complained that the media was painting their bid for higher pay in a negative light. Parliament’s Speaker, Justin Muturi, said that, having reviewed the earlier decision, he had now decided that journalists should be allowed to conduct their work from the Media Centre, the Press Gallery and the Committee Rooms whenever the House Committees were in session. At the time of the closure, ARTICLE 19 protested that this was likely to undermine journalists’ ability to report on parliamentary proceedings.

Uganda

Journalist attacked by a mob

On 20 September, Samuel Kaweesi, a journalist working with Uganda Broadcasting Corporation Radio, narrowly escaped attack by a mob armed with arrows. At the time, he was covering a land dispute at the Acholi Quarters of the Nakasongola Town Council in the Nakasongola district of central Uganda. Police had to fire shots into the air to disperse the mob. No arrests were made.

Police grab journalist’s camera in court, delete material

On 25 September, a female police officer grabbed the camera of Peter Busomoke, a reporter with Vision Group and deleted photographs he had taken during a court session at Nakawa in Kampala. Busomoke tried in vain to convince the police officer not to delete the images as he had been given permission by the court to cover the proceedings. The Court spokesperson, Erias Kisawuzi, said the matter would be investigated.

Tanzania

Government shuts down newspapers for “provoking hostility”

On 29 September, the Tanzanian government imposed fourteen-day and ninety-day publication bans respectively on the Mwananchi and Mtanzania newspapers. The bans were effective from Friday 27 September.The decision was announced by the Director of Information, Mr Assah Mwambene. The main reason for the bans was the newspapers’ tendency to publish stories and photographs that were intended to provoke hostility in the public, both against the state and against defence and security bodies.According to Mr Mwambene’s statement, Mwananchi printed a story on 17 July about new government salary structures, based on a confidential dossier that was never meant to be made public. On 17 August, the same newspaper published a story that the government argues falsely showed Muslim worshippers being forced to pray under heavy police guard.Mr Mwambene said that Mtanzania had been warned on a number of occasions about violating professional ethics. He said that the newspaper had defied directives from the Registrar of newspapers by publishing emotive stories which implied that the government was slow to combat terrorist attacks and other similar incidents. He said that headlines in Mtanzania like “Bloody Presidency” in the 20 March edition and “A revolution is inevitable” on 27 September were alarmist.

Ethiopia

Police detain photographers

On 27 September, twenty six members of Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party were detained, among them photographers who had taken pictures of the police snatching fliers from protestors. The protestors were distributing fliers ahead of a major protest two days later. Police detained them for four hours and released them after having forced them to delete the pictures they had taken. UDJ party conducted a three month campaign titled “Millions of Voices for Freedom” against the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009. In the process, its members were frequently detained, and later released, for distributing fliers requesting citizens sign a petition to call off the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.In a similar incident, during a demonstration called by the Blue Party on Sep 19 2013, Ethiopian police attacked protestors claiming that the demonstrators’ followed a restricted route during the protest. Solyana Shimeles, a blogger of Zone9 blog and a human rights activist, had taken photos of the police crackdown of the protest. The security officials arrested and detained her for 45 minutes, forcing her to delete the pictures she had taken.