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Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa 22 May 2013


22 May 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.


Two lawyers killed

On 14 April, two Somali lawyers were killed when a group of armed men dressed in army uniform detonated explosives at the main court complex in Mogadishu. Al-shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. The deceased are Professor Mohamed Mahmoud Afrah, Head of the Somali Lawyers Association and Abdikarin Hussein Gorod Lower. The two lawyers had recently conducted the successful defence of Somali journalist Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim and Lul Ali who had been interviewed by Abdinur following her claim that she had been raped by government forces.

Another journalist killed.
On 21 April, journalist Mohamed Ibrahim Rage was killed by unidentified armed assailants near his house in the Dharkeynley district of the Banadir region. Mohamed, who previously worked for Radio Mogadishu and Somali National Television, was one of a number of journalists who had just returned to Somalia after fleeing the unstable political situation in the country in 2009. He is the fourth journalist to have been assassinated in Somalia since the start of 2013.

Gunmen attack newspaper.

On 24 April at around 11.30 pm, two masked gunmen burst into the offices of the independent daily newspaper Hubaal in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The newspaper's employees were busy proofreading the next day's copy when at least one shot was fired. One assailant shot at Mohamed Ahmed Jama, owner and manager of the Hubaal Media Network, which publishes Hubaal and the English daily newspaper, The Independent. Mohamed suffered a broken arm and finger while he and other employees subdued the gunman. The other assailant fled. Interior Minister Mohamed Nur Arale later said that both gunmen had been identified as police officers and the one arrested would be prosecuted.

29 April 2013: Journalist attacked with axe.

On 29 April, Radio Ergo journalist Abdullahi Mohamed Jimale was attacked and badly injured in Baladweyne district by an unidentified person wielding an axe. The wounded journalist was rushed to hospital by sympathisers. Government authorities are said to have arrested the attacker but the results of their investigation have not yet been revealed.


Temesgen Desalegn case postponed.

On 23 April 23, journalist Temesgen Desalegn appeared at the Federal High Court in Addis Ababa on three charges:

  •  outrages against the constitution
  •  defaming the government
  •  false publication of articles.  

The trial was adjourned to 30 May to give time for the prosecution to study documents filed by the defence.

Prison authorities threaten Reeyot Alemu.

UNESCO Courage Award Winner and renowned journalist Reeyot Alemu, who is currently serving a five-year prison sentence, alleged that the prison authorities had threatened her with two months solitary confinement. The threats were made to punish her alleged bad behavior and her threats to publicise human rights violations by prison guards.

ARTICLE 19 representatives who visited Reeyot also noted that her health is deteriorating as she has been denied access to adequate medical treatment for her recently diagnosed breast tumour. Reeyot, who was a columnist for the now-defunct independent weekly, Feteh, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on January 2012 under anti-terrorism legislation. In August 2012, the Supreme Court acquitted her on two counts. However, the court upheld the charge of participating in the promotion or communication of a terrorist act and reduced her sentence to five years.


Police officer jailed for shooting a journalist.

Patrick Niyonkuru, a reporter with independent radio station African Public Radio (RPA), sustained serious gunshot wounds when a police officer opened fire on him. The policeman, whom Patrick had witnessed extorting money from men taking fruit to market, was identified as Pierre Havyarimana. He was indicted for attempted homicide and sentenced to 15 years in prison.


Prisons bosses suspended after attack on journalists.

On 14 April, Tom Okello, the Warden of Kalisizo Prison and Rakai District Principal Officer,  and Asiimwe Julius, the Regional Prisons Commander for the Southern Region, were sent on forced leave for their part in an attack on two journalists. Pascal Lutabi, a reporter with WBS Television, and John Bosco Mulyowa, who reports for the government-owned Bukedde Radio, were following a story about an attempted jail escape.

The two journalists were allegedly assaulted by prison warders while covering news of the escape of more than 10 inmates on 18 March 2013. During the attack, the journalists’ cameras and voice recorders were destroyed and Lutabi was seriously injured. The attacks took place in the presence of Okello, who made no attempt to stop his staff from attacking the journalists.

Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has also called for Corporal Robert Ssemata, Corporal Kyomwiru Frank and Warder Mukisa Alex to be disciplined. On 21 March, these three men were charged with ‘discreditable conduct’ and their files sent to the prisons headquarters in Kampala. However, despite this and their implication in the alleged assault on the journalists, all three have remained in post for no justifiable reason.

Journalist freed.

On 23 April, Gulu Chief Magistrates’ Court dismissed a four-year case in which a Daily Monitor reporter faced charges of criminal libel. Magistrate Praff Rutakirwa dismissed the case against journalist Moses Akena for a number of reasons:

  • the government’s failure to appoint Supreme Court judges
  •   Lack both complainant and witnesses since the start of the case.Kenya

Journalists receive death threats.
Mohammed Ali and John-Allan Namu, investigative journalists from Kenya Television Network (KTN), reportedly received death threats. The threats came shortly after the airing of their story investigating the death of former Minister for Internal Security, George Saitoti, and his deputy, Orwa Ojode. The story, entitled "Inside Story: Death in Ten Minutes", suggested foul play was involved in the helicopter crash that killed the former Interior Minister and his deputy on 10 June 2012.


Special Rapporteur denied access.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, Beedwantee Keetharuth, has publicly stated that she regrets the Eritrean Government continuing to deny her the access she needs to assess the human rights situation in the country. “I have urged the Eritrean authorities to cooperate with my mandate, as required by the UN Human Rights Council,” Ms Keetharuth said during the 53rd session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul, The Gambia.

The Special Rapporteur will present her first report on the human rights situation in Eritrea to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013. Eritrea, which is a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, continues to leave unanswered earlier calls by the African Commission for:

  •  a fair trial for 18 journalists detained without trial since 2001
  •  the lifting of the ban on a free press.