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Newsletter:Freedom of Expression in East Africa 9 September 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.

Article 19

9 September 2013


Journalist attacked

On 2 August 2013, Awil Mohamud Abdi, a journalist working for Radio Galkayo, was attacked at his home by unidentified gunmen in Galkayo, Puntland. Armed men followed Awil from his workplace and shot at him through his bedroom window. Although nobody has claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt, it is suspected that members of Al-Shabaab could have been involved. The terrorist group has in the recent past been involved in attacks against journalist in the country.

Radio technician killed

On 17 August 2013, unidentified assailants disguised as students shot Engineer Ahmed Sharif outside his home in the Shibis neighborhood of Mogadishu. Sharif, who worked at the state-run Radio Mogadishu as a technician, was reportedly shot four times in the chest, stomach and heart. He was immediately rushed to Keysaney hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. The motive of the attack is unclear and no group has claimed responsibility.

Media networks banned

On 18 August 2013, the government of Puntland, a semi-autonomous region in northeastern Somalia, banned Somali National TV and Radio Mogadishu from broadcasting in the region. In a letter signed by Puntland's Minister of Information Ahmed Sheikh Jama, the regional administration based in Garowe banned both the state media and other journalists working for it from operating in Puntland.

Hubaal newspaper allowed to resume operation

On 18 August 2013, the President of Somaliland, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud, issued a presidential directive allowing Hubaal News to resume operations. The Hubaal Media Group had been shut down for almost three months following a court order issued on 11 June, ordering it to close down its operations immediately. No reason was given for the order, which affected both the daily Somali language (Hubaal) and weekly English language (Independent) newspapers published by the group.

On 4 July, its Chief Editor, Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Jama, and its Editor, Mr. Hasan Hussein Abdilahi, were fined and sentenced to one and two years’ imprisonment respectively. The journalists were charged on the basis of an article published in issue 147 of Hubaal newspaper on 21 January 2013, alleging that Ethiopian diplomatic staff based in Hargeisa were involved in using their diplomatic privileges to smuggle illicit drugs.They were also accused of publishing false news in issue 262 of 10 June 2013 where they said that Somaliland President Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo is in poor health and has relinquished his duties to the state minister for presidency The presidential pardon extends to these two sentences.


Umisingi newspaper back after one year

On 7 August 2013, Umusingi, the weekly Kinyarwanda newspaper, was back on the streets with its 76th issue after a year-long absence due to the imprisonment of its Chief Editor, Stanley Gatera. Gatera had been arrested on 1 August 1 2012 on charges of divisionism and sectarianism after complaints were filed by the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) and ProFemme Twese Hamwe, a women’s rights non-governmental organisation. Their complaints followed an article published in Issue 71 of Umisingi dated June 25-July 5, 2012, which was deemed to have made offensive references to the Rwandan genocide.Gatera was released on 25 July 2013. ARTICLE 19 provided Stanley Gatera with financial assistance amounting to USD 2500 for his living expenses and towards publication of the newspaper.

Rwanda media to self regulate

On 27 August journalists and media stakeholders met together to embrace their new self-regulatory role, one which was previously carried out by the Media High Council.Participants successfully came to a common understanding and decided that the new body should have a Board/Ethics committee and a Secretariat to handle day-to-day work. The Board will be made up of seven people, four of whom will be journalists and editors, one of whom will come from the University, and the other two of whom will come from the Bar Association, civil society or the private sector. A general assembly of journalists will elect the Board/Ethics Committee members on 26 September 2013.


Minister demands apology

On 29 August 2013, Kenya’s Labour Secretary, Kazungu Kambi, filed for defamation against the Nation Media Group. The group ran a report in early August linking the minister to a Ksh 304 million debt which a local oil marketer owes to the Development Bank of Kenya.In the suit filed before Kenya’s High Court, the minister described the publication as malicious and unwarranted. The minister said that the article intended to disparage his name despite the fact that no judgment was made against him in the case involving the Development Bank and two others. The minister wrote to the Nation Media Group demanding a retraction of the article and an apology and when the group did not do this, the minister filed the lawsuit.


Journalists detained

On 2 August 2013, two Ethiopian journalists, Khalid Mohamed and Darsema Sori, were arrested and detained in Addis Ababa by security officials. The following day, the journalists appeared in court and were remanded in custody while the police continued their investigations.It is not known why the two were arrested or what charges would be brought against them.Both journalists work for Radio Bilal. Darsema, a senior editor for the station, worked on two current affairs programs, Life in Ethiopia and Let us Discuss. Khalid is the station's news editor.Radio Bilal, an online radio station with offices in Washington, Johannesburg, and Addis Ababa, has provided extensive coverage of the affairs of Ethiopia's Muslim community, including the current series of peaceful mass demonstrations against alleged government interference in religious affairs.

Journalist detained

On 20 August 2013, Getachew Werku, Editor in Chief of Ethiomehdar weekly newspaper, was arrested and detained in Addis Ababa. He was interrogated for two hours before being released. It is not clear whether or not he will be charged.The reason for his arrest remains unknown.It is not clear whether he will be charged or not.


Public order management bill passed

On 6 August 2013, the Ugandan Parliament passed the Public Order Management Bill despite broad criticism from domestic and international civil society organisations. These organisations are concerned that the bill violates international and regional standards on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The bill includes bans on any assembly from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., as well as requiring the authorities to be notified of any public assembly.In its analysis of the bill, ARTICLE 19 warned that the bill will seriously erode the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Uganda if given Presidential assent. The bill does not include any overarching obligation for the State to promote and protect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. It also contains no presumption in favour of the exercise of these rights. In addition, the bill defines a “public meeting” as being any gathering of three or more people where any political matters are discussed. The authorities will have to be notified of any such meeting, a development which demonstrates the government’s intention of using the bill to limit opportunities for dissent.