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Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in East Africa 5 July 2013

Article 19

5 July 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 European Union (EU): the content of the newsletter, however, does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the EU.

Uganda

Journalist killed.

On 17 June, Thomas Pere, a journalist working with Uganda's New Vision Media, was found murdered in Masajja village. Pere's body, which was discovered in a trench, was covered in multiple injuries but there was no sign of struggle at the scene of the crime. This led police to conclude that he may have been killed elsewhere and the body dumped in the trench.

Police drop charges against journalists.

On 24 June, the Ugandan police dropped charges of ‘inciting violence’ against two Ugandan journalists, Mulindwa Mukasa and William Ntege (also known as Kyumakyayesu). The two journalists had been arrested in Namuwongo, Kampala, while protesting with others against the security forces’ arbitrary closure of the Daily Monitor, KFM, Dembe radio and Red Pepper.

Rwanda

Journalist released from prison.

On 25 June, Rwandese journalist Saidat Mukakibibi was released after completing a three-year jail sentence. She had been convicted of endangering national security under Article 166 of the Penal Code. A former reporter for the bimonthly Umurabyo newspaper, she had been held since 8 July 2010. Mukakibibi had originally been sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of inciting civil disobedience, causing division and denying the 1994 genocide. However, the charges and sentence had been reduced to three years on appeal.

Newspapers seized.

The Rwandan authorities seized editions of three newspapers printed in Uganda whilst they were being brought over the Rwanda-Uganda border.The newspapers in question were Rushyashya, Intego and Impamo. The incident occurred after the newspapers had been cleared by customs. When the newspapers’ managers attempted to find out from the authorities why the newspapers had been seized, Government officials responded with clearly fabricated explanations.

Kenya

Journalist assaulted.

On 13 June, Godfrey Wamalwa of African Press International was attacked by unidentified thugs at his rural home in Webuye, Bungoma County in Western Kenya. The attack came barely a week after the journalist had drawn attention to corruption, mismanagement and harassment at the Lugulu Mission Hospital. Wamalwa reported the incident to Webuye police.

Somalia

Newspaper shut down.

On 11 June, the Somaliland administration ordered the closure of the independent Hubal newspaper and its English sister publication,The Independent. The order to close the newspapers came from the Attorney General and Hargeisa District Court told the newspapers to cease publication immediately. The order extended to any printing house contributing to the production of the Hubal media group’s publications.

According to Hubal’s Editor–in-Chief, Mr. Abdilahi Aden Omar (widely known as 'Wayab'), the media house was shut down because of an article it published about the ongoing saga of the Nile dam between Egypt and Ethiopia. The paper had requested the Somaliland administration to publicly indicate its stand on the issue. The article in question had mentioned the Egyptians threaten ing the ongoing construction of the Nile dam by attacking Ethiopia and its allies, notably Somaliland.

Journalists charged.

On 23 June, the Attorney General's office in Hargeisa issued two new charges against the banned Hubal newspaper, accusing two employees of defamation. Hubal’s manager, Mohamed Ahmed Jama Aloley, and editor, Hassan Hussein Kefkef, were charged with falsely defaming Somaliland national officials. The paper was also accused of causing trouble between Ethiopia, Egypt, Somalia and Somaliland.The charge of defaming the Ethiopian consulate was connected to an article the paper had published in January.The second charge was related to a June news story about a crisis in the River Nile.

Puntland journalists sign Code of Conduct.

On 24 June, Puntland's media signed a Code of Conduct committing themselves to upholding ethical principles when covering the forthcoming elections, scheduled for 15 July. The code was co-signed by the Ministry of Information, Communication, Culture and Heritage, as well as the Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC) and Puntland Development Research Centre (PDRC).This is the first time that Puntland, an autonomous state in Somalia, has organised multi-party elections. The Code of Conduct is intended to create a framework for news reporting in the fragile state during the election period.

Journalist killed.

On 7 June, Al-shabaab militia shot dead journalist Fu’ad Nur Alasow, who worked for radio Al-Furqaan in the Barawe district of Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. Fu’ad Nur Alasow was killed by Al-shabaab after they accused him of spying for the Somalian government.

Eritrea

Mandate of Special Rapporteur on human rights renewed.

On 14 June, the mandate of Sheela Keetharuth, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, was renewed. This followed calls from Article 19 and other civil society organisations for her term to be extended. Ms Keetharuth was initially appointed to the role of Special Rapporteur in 2012.

During the 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council,  the Special Rapporteur presented her report on Eritrea. She highlighted a series of human rights violations and the government’s failure to enforce and respect the rule of law. She made it clear that freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of assembly and association are severely curtailed in Eritrea. She also described a climate of fear in the country, fuelled by rumours, propaganda and suspicion.