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Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in East Africa 8 August 2013

 Article 19

8 August 2013

This monthly newsletter provides a snapshot of cases of violence against journalists 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.


Journalists convicted of defamation

A court in Somaliland convicted two journalists from Hubaal, the independent daily newspaper, on charges of ‘defamation’ and ‘false publication of news capable of disturbing public order’. The paper’s editor, Hussein Hassan Abdullahi, was imprisoned for two years, and its manager, Mohamed Ahmed Jama, for one year. In addition, the court fined Hussein 2,000,000 Somaliland shillings (US$300) and Mohamed 1,000,000 shillings (US$150). Both journalists were subsequently released on appeal.

Journalist killed

Two anonymous gunmen shot television journalist Libaan Abdullahi Farah (better known as Liban Qaran) dead in the Garsoor neighborhood. He was shot four to six times in the throat, chest, heart and legs as he made his way home from work at around 7:00pm. Rushed to MSF Hospital in Galkaiyo South, he was confirmed dead on arrival.

Somalia media law passed

The Somali Council of Ministers passed the Somalia Media Law, which was greeted by an outcry from journalists and other stakeholders. The draft law, which was prepared by the Ministry of Information, Post, Telecommunication and Transport, is now expected to be presented to parliament. A media sub-committee will discuss it and make any necessary recommendations before it is presented to the President to be signed into law.

The Somali media and other stakeholders have criticised the bill for introducing laws that will impose significant restrictions on journalists’ work. There are also concerns about the independence of the National Media Council which will operate under the auspices of the Ministry of Information.

The media community is concerned that the draft Media Law could be misused to curb alternative and differing voices in Somalia for political reasons. It is also concerned that editorial independence will not be guaranteed.

The outcry has prompted the formation of a technical committee to review the bill. This committee is made up of representatives from the National Union of Somalia Journalists, AU/UN IST on behalf of the Somalia Media Contact Group, legal experts and government officials.

Two journalists shot

Two journalists were seriously wounded after their car was fired at by a member of the Raskamboni brigade in Kismayu. The two journalists were Mascuud Abdulahi Aadan, a correspondent for the Mogadishu-based Dalsan Radio and Mohamed Farah Sahal, a correspondent for the Mogadishu-based Goobjoog Radio. They were on their way to report on a landmine explosion that targeted AMISOM troops in Kismayu.

Mascuud Abdulahi was seriously injured and has since been admitted to Madina hospital in Somalia. ARTICLE 19 is providing financial support to cover his medical bills and he is expected to be airlifted to Nairobi, Kenya for specialist treatment. Mohamed Farah Sahal was treated and discharged and is recuperating in his home.


Rwanda to amend genocide law

Rwanda’s lower house passed a bill aimed at reviewing Law n° 18/2008 of 23/07/2008 relating to the punishment of the crime of genocide ideology. The law, which had been adopted in 2008, 14 years after the genocide, had been criticised as muzzling free speech. A number of human rights groups, including ARTICLE 19, criticised the law for being overly vague and said it was being used to crack down on the opposition and critical media.

Journalist released from prison

Stanley Gatera, editor of the newspaper, Umusingi a Kinyarwanda, was released from prison after completing his jail term. Stanley was sentenced in November 2012 to a year’s imprisonment on charges of divisionism and sectarianism as the result of an article published in his newspaper.

He was arrested after complaints were filed by the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) and the women’s rights non-governmental organisation, ProFemme Twese Hamwe, over an article published in issue 71 dated June 25-July 5, 2012. His case was supported by Article 19 via the Emergency Support Fund.


Journalist threatened

Uganda Radio Network (URN) journalist, Tom Malaba, reported that he is living in fear following a number of threatening incidents. These include one on 30 June, where two unidentified men attacked his home at night, prompting the police to fire into the air several times. He has reported the incidents to the police who committed to carrying out a full investigation.

Malaba, a veteran Ugandan journalist, is a crime reporter who also covers Rwandese refugee and education issues. He claims that unidentified men have been trailing him for some time from his workplace to his home. During the incident on 30 June, the two unidentified men managed to enter the compound where he lives at about 02:30 local time and then attempted to break into his house.

Journalists assaulted

On 8 July, Vision Group journalist Saul Wokulira was assaulted by Mrs Florence Nakkonde, an official from Uganda’s Ministry of Finance. The assault took place while Wokulira was covering a domestic scuffle involving the official, who also destroyed his video camera. The case was reported to the police but an out of court settlement was reached. Mrs Nakkonde offered an apology and compensation to the journalist.


Protests in Ethiopia

Since 2 June 2013, thousands of Ethiopian opposition activists and journalists have been demonstrating in Addis Ababa. They are demanding the release of the journalists and political prisoners who have been jailed under Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism legislation. The protests are being organised by the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party.

Journalists, opposition members and religious leaders have been jailed under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism legislation. Human rights groups claim that the government is using it to stifle freedom of the press and freedom of information.

Last year, the journalist Eskinder Nega and the Vice-Chairman of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, Andualem Arage, were both jailed under the anti-terrorism legislation for treason and conspiring to commit acts of terror.

The latest protests in Addis Ababa are the largest since 2005’s post-election violence, which resulted in 200 people being killed and 30,000 arrested.