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Newsletter Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa December 2013

 Article 19

11 December 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.

Report on status of Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa launched

On 22 November, Article 19 East Africa launched a ten-month report on the status of freedom of expression in Eastern Africa. The report provides a snapshot of the violence and intimidation faced by journalists and media outlets in the area over the past ten months and included reports of:

• deaths

• punitive legal action taken in relation to media reports

• bans on publications and broadcasts.

The report was published to coincide with the International Day to End Impunity.


Journalists awarded 

Three Eritrean Journalists,Mebrahtu Teclesion, Dessale Berekhet Abraham and Ruth Zecarias Ghebre were honoured when they received the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), International Press Freedom Award 2013. This was awarded for their efforts to foster space for free expression at tremendous personal risk.


Police arrest two journalists from independent paper

On 5 November, Ethiopian police arrested without charge two editors from the leading independent Amharic weekly paper, Ethio-Mihdar. Police in the town of Legetafo, north east of the capital Addis Ababa, arrested Getachew Worku and Million Degnew in connection with a story published in October alleging corruption in the town administration. Both editors were later released on bail pending further investigation by the police.


Journalists harassed by police boss

On 16 November, three Kenyan journalists based in the county of Kiambu were harassed by Kiambu police offers while they were covering a story outside the police station. They were accused by the officers of being members of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group.

The journalists in question were Eric Wainaina from the Standard Group, Daniel Njenga from the Nation Media Group and Joe Nyagah from Royal Media Services. They were interviewing two directors from a local land buying company who had accused police office based at Thika East of taking sides in a dispute involving their company and another rival company.

President returns media bill to parliament

On 27 November, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, declined to sign the controversial Kenya Information and Communications Act (Amendment) Bill and instead returned it to the National Assembly recommending changes. The media fraternity, however, opposes the President’s recommendations as they still include most of the contentious clauses seen as a threat to press freedom in Kenya.Update:The bill was passed by parliament with the contentious clauses intact on 5th December 2013 as was suggested by the president.


All-female radio station launched

An all-female radio station has been launched in Somalia. Radio Aman, the first all-female run radio station in Mogadishu, was launched in November to provide a platform for women’s issues in the country. Somalia has been riddled with conflict for years and women’s issues are rarely given priority. Radio Aman is intended to feature content about women’s welfare in Somalia.

Police arrest journalist

On 4 November, Somali police arrested Mohamed Salaad Osman, a reporter for Goobjoog Radio, a privately owned radio station based in Mogadishu. Mr Osman was arrested after he tried to photograph the police carrying out evictions at the former National Library offices in Mogadishu. After his camera and radio recorder had been confiscated, Mr Osman was arrested at the Central station in Hamarweyne. He was detained there for two hours before being released.

Jubbaland authorities close independent radio station

On 15 November, the Interim Jubba Administration (IJA) in Kismayo shut down the privately owned radio station, Radio Voice of Somalia, after it had been on air for only a few minutes. IJA authorities briefly detained the station’s director, Mohamed Abdi Aynte, and confiscated station equipment. The station owner, Abdiweli Gar Yare, said that he had obtained the required broadcasting licences from the IJA before the station went on air.

Shabelle Media back on air after 35 days

On 29 November, Shabelle Media Network resumed broadcasting. They were taken off air by government forces on 26 October 2013, following an order by the Internal Security Minister, Abdulkarim Hussein Guled. In the course of the shutdown, some of the media service’s broadcasting equipment was destroyed by government forces, forcing the media group to replace them with temporary equipment.


Journalist charged with assault

On 25 November, Ugandan police based at Old Kampala station arrested a journalist working with a private radio station, Metro FM. Mr Kyambadde Sam was charged with assault for following up and questioning the arrest of a businessman in a local Kampala suburb. He was released when the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda intervened on his behalf.

Journalists blocked from City Hall as mayor is impeached

On 26 November, Ugandan police prevented almost twenty journalists from accessing the chambers of City Hall during the stormy impeachment of the capital city’s Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago. The journalists, who came from a number of different media companies, asked the security officers to allow them to enter but their request was refused. The officers gave no reason for their actions.

Police arrest three journalists

On 27 November, Ugandan police arrested a local radio presenter, Richard Kasule, on the grounds of incitement to violence.Two other journalists, Halima Asijo Uthuman of Uganda Radio Network and Mulindwa Mukasa, the chairperson of the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), were also arrested and detained at Wandegeya Police Station after questioning Kasule’s arrest.Mr Kasule was taken from the Top Radio studios in Bwaise,a Kampala suburb, after the Deputy Lord Mayor, Mr Suleiman Kidandala, was a guest on his show.The journalists were released on bail.Their cases are ongoing.