#Article (Archive)

Activist urges states to free imprisoned journalists

Apr 27, 2012, 2:11 PM | Article By: Sainey MK Marenah

Omar Faruk Osman, president of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the secretary of the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA), this week urged African states to free all imprisoned journalists, and to end violent repression.

Speaking at the 51st ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights held this week at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, Mr Osman said, “Media freedom in Africa continues to be under serious assault from different players, among them the governments of the countries in the continent.”

Mr. Osman used his address to summarize some of the worst abuses against journalists.

Somalia is considered by Mr Osman to be the most deadly country for journalists in Africa. Five journalists have been murdered there since the commission’s 50th ordinary session last year.

A suicide bomb in Mogadishu reportedly injured 11 journalists as they covered a ceremony at the national theatre earlier this month. There have also been reports of the intimidation and arrest of journalists across the country, including radio journalist Awke Abdullahi, who has been detained for more than a month in the northern city of Bossasso.

Mr. Osman named Eritrea as the worst jailer of journalists in Africa. At least 32 journalists have been imprisoned there without charge and without trial, some for more than 10 years. At least four journalists have died while in detention.

In Ethiopia, four journalists have been convicted of terrorism, and each sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. The Ethiopian media operates under repressive laws, he said, adding that it is the only country in Africa, other than Burundi, where journalists have been charged with “treason”.

Mr. Osman said security agencies in Sudan have routinely raided and closed down independent publications and a number of journalists have been arrested.

According to Mr Osman, the Burundi government has largely remained hostile to the media and journalists, including leaders of the journalists’ union.

Security forces in central Tunis, Tunisia, ran amok with baton rounds and tear gas as journalists covered demonstrations on Martyrs Day on April 9, 2012. Nineteen journalists were beaten and some were seriously hurt.

Mr. Osman highlighted the restrictions on journalists in Guinea Bissau, following the military coup on April 12, 2012.

He also mentioned Boko Haram, whose violence against civilians resulted in the deaths of a number of journalists this year.

He added that violence against and intimidation of journalists and press freedom advocates in Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Cameroon also remains a serious issue.

Oumar also expressed concern about the insecurity faced by Malian journalists after mutinying soldiers took over the state broadcasting building.