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Media News Flash

Media news flash: Journalist attacked in Congo-Brazzaville while covering trial (IFJ, RWB)

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed deep concern about the health and physical safety of journalist Sadio Kanté. Ms. Kanté is the Reuters correspondent in Congo-Brazzaville. She was attacked on September 16 by police while working in the capital, Brazzaville. Several independent sources contacted by the IFJ have confirmed the attack.

Gabriel Baglo is the Director of IFJ’s Africa Office. He condemned the attack as a violation of freedom of the press. Mr. Baglo says: “There is no justification for violence against a journalist who was doing her job, has formal accreditation and a press badge. We urge the authorities to open an investigation in order to punish any act of violence committed against her.”

Ms. Kanté had been covering a trial concerning the March 2012 explosion of a munitions depot in a working-class suburb of Brazzaville which killed at least 150 people. On Monday, September 16, she returned to the courthouse to film outside shots. As she was filming, a policeman ordered her to present her accreditation. Ms. Kanté showed papers which had been issued by the Congolese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the IFJ, the policeman then grabbed her camera for no apparent reason, and Ms. Kanté was arrested and taken to a police station. She was then handcuffed and detained without explanation. The IFJ states that Ms. Kanté received a severe beating from three policemen. Unable to stand unassisted, Ms. Kanté was allegedly picked up and thrown out of the police station.

Ms. Kanté later received attention from a doctor for severe bruising, and now must use crutches to walk.

In June 2013, the country’s media regulator suspended three independent Brazzaville-based newspapers for four months for publishing “seditious articles.” According to Reporters Without Borders, or RWB, the Congolese media are often exposed to threats, intimidation and prosecution. RWB says that print media can occasionally cover corruption allegations involving the government, since their readership is small. But radio and TV stations, which have a much bigger audience, are generally wary of covering such issues, claims RWB.

The IFJ has reminded the Congolese authorities of their obligation to promote both the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press by guaranteeing conditions to encourage journalism. In their statement, the IFJ declares: “there can be no freedom of the press when journalists are attacked with impunity in the exercise of their profession.”

The IFJ has been monitoring Ms. Kanté’s situation very carefully. The organization would like justice to be seen to be done. It demands that an investigation be opened to identify Ms. Kanté’s attackers. Mr. Baglo insists, “This case should not go unpunished.”

http://africa.ifj.org/fr/articles/la-fij-sinquiete-de-la-securite-dune-journaliste-agressee-au-congo-brazzaville

http://en.rsf.org/report-congo,12.html http://fr.rsf.org/congo-congo-05-01-2010,35662.html

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Ethiopia: Don’t mention the evictions (APO)

Ethiopian authorities have detained a reporter who sought to interview people evicted from their homes, according to a news report and the reporter’s editor. Muluken Tesfahun was interviewing people in a region where the government is building a contentious hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile. The reporter for the privately-owned weekly newspaper, Ethio-Mehedar, is being held in prison in the town of Asosa, capital of the Benishangul-Gumuz region in northwestern Ethiopia.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, says the case highlights the Ethiopian authorities’ disregard for the rule of law and its systematic efforts to suppress news critical of government officials.

Getachew Worku is the newspaper’s editor-in-chief. He said Mr. Tesfahun has not been formally charged or presented in court. The detention appears to run counter to constitutional guarantees that citizens be brought to court within 48 hours of arrest.

Mohamed Keita is CPJ’s Africa Advocacy Coordinator. He said: “By arresting journalist Muluken Tesfahun for gathering information from the victims of forced relocation, Ethiopia is once again criminalizing independent journalism.” He continued: “Ethiopia should make good on its obligation as a member of the UN Human Rights Council to uphold citizens’ rights by releasing Muluken immediately.”

According to the Voice of America, local security forces arrested Mr. Muluken on Friday in the village of Dobi. They also confiscated his reporting equipment. Mr. Muluken had been assigned by his newspaper to report on the return of thousands of ethnic Amhara, Oromo, and Agew farmers who had been forcibly evicted from their land in mid-March.

The Ethiopian state media have not reported in detail on the evictions caused by the building of the dam. However, local journalists say that opposition parties have made accusations of ethnic cleansing. The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, acknowledged the evictions in a speech to the House of Peoples’ Representatives in April.

He called the action “illegal,” blaming it on lower-level officials and inviting the displaced to return. This month, Federal Affairs Minister Shiferaw Teklemariam announced the arrests of 35 Benishangul officials in connection with the evictions.

The government says the Grand Renaissance Dam will be Africa’s biggest power plant. The dam’s impact on the downstream water supply has renewed tensions between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. No one has provided an official explanation for the evictions, and it’s not clear that they were directly related to construction of the dam.

The Ethiopian government has denied allegations of coercion, abuse, and violence in other resettlement programs. International news reports have alleged that the authorities displaced small-scale farmers in order to lease large tracts of land to foreign commercial farmers.

Ethiopia has jailed eight journalists. According to the CPJ, the country trails only Eritrea as Africa’s most prolific jailers of journalists.

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Uganda: Ugandan media outlets re-open, but is the door on press freedom closing? (Deutsche Welle, CPJ, BBC)

Uganda’s government says that journalists can return to work at one of Uganda’s largest newspapers. There was widespread criticism when police shut down the Daily Monitor for eleven days, declaring their offices “a crime scene” after the newspaper printed a confidential memo allegedly written by a senior Ugandan general. The government had argued that the publication of the army general’s “sensitive” letter compromised national security. A second newspaper, the Red Pepper, was closed for reporting on the allegations.

Police also shut down two radio stations affiliated to The Daily Monitor, Dembe FM and KFM, after the story about a memo written by General David Sejusa. The letter, addressed to the Director General of Uganda’s Internal Security Organisation, cited an alleged plot for the president’s son to succeed him. The Daily Monitor has resisted efforts to forward a copy of Sejusa’s letter to the police, saying it would be contrary to press freedom.

According to the Daily Monitor, the letter said those who opposed the alleged plot risked assassination. General Sejusa is currently abroad and faces arrest if he returns to Uganda. The general believes himself to be at risk of reprisals.

Last week, police assaulted and detained several journalists among a crowd of demonstrators protesting the government’s closure of the independent news outlets.

Police dispersed the protest with batons and tear gas, and beat several television journalists. No serious injuries were reported, though several journalists said their equipment was damaged in the attack.

The police briefly detained three members of the Uganda Human Rights Journalist Network who organized the protest. Geoffrey Ssebaggala is the group’s national coordinator. He said he was released without charge, but two of his colleagues were charged with unlawful assembly and inciting violence.

Staff at the Daily Monitor say police occupied the newspaper’s premises in Kampala for 11 days. Although the offices have been re-opened, some journalists are worried that the Nation Media Group has caved in to government pressure, choosing business concerns over the public interest.

In order to get the police cordon removed from outside their offices, and for the paper and the radio stations to get back to work, the media organization promised to be sensitive to and not publish or air stories that could generate tensions or ethnic hatred, cause insecurity, or disturb law and order.

A statement from the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hilary Onek, said the owners of the Daily Monitor had agreed to “only publish or air stories which are properly sourced, verified and factual.”

Alex Asimwe is the Daily Monitor’s Managing Director. He says the paper has not caved in to government pressure, but that “reason had prevailed.” He added, “I think [the Government’s] reasoning and understanding is that [this issue] touched on national security and they were probably worried that it would create security issues and divisions in the army.”

Press freedom is under threat across East African states. Reporters Without Borders describes the media sectors of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as only “partly free,” and those of Burundi and Rwanda as “not free.”

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza approved a new media law which weakens the protection of sources, restricts investigative reporting, and requires all journalists to have a university degree regardless of experience. Reporters Without Borders says the new law marks a “black day for freedom of information in Burundi.”

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3. Zimbabwe: First independent newspaper in seven years hits newsstands (Yahoo, Amnesty USA, RNW)

The Zimbabwe Media Commission granted licences to five media groups last week. Alpha Media Holdings were well-prepared for the decision – its daily paper, NewsDay, hit the news-stands on June 7. This is the first independent newspaper to appear in Zimbabwe since 2003. Trevor Ncube, who heads Alpha Media, said that the arrival of the newspaper “represents the hope of a tortured nation.”

However, no radio or television licences have been granted. Consequently, Zimbabwe still has no private radio or television broadcasts. Community radio stations such as Radio Dialogue in Bulawayo have been denied licences in recent years. However, Radio Dialogue has found creative, non-broadcast ways to provide Bulawayo with information and opportunities for discussion. The station has distributed programs on cassette and CD, put on road shows, speaking contests and drama competitions, and held “live broadcast” community meetings. Radio Dialogue is now looking into how to use new technologies to reach a bigger audience in Bulawayo.

Zoe Titus, regional programs manager at the Media Institute of Southern Africa, said, “While the world celebrates we should remember that there has been no change in the broadcast sector, which is strictly state-owned and controlled. Newspapers serve their function, but many people get their information from television and radio and those areas have not been opened up, although we are optimistic they will.”

The online version of NewsDay can be accessed at http://www.newsday.co.zw/.
More information on Radio Dialogue and their activities can be found at: http://www.radiodialogue.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=54.

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