Latest Press Freedom News from the Continent

  • In Chad, Ngaradoumbé Samory, a journalist with the privately-owned weekly “L’Observateur”, was arrested on 4 June and held for 48 hours, following the publication of an open letter to President Idriss Deby in the newspaper. Samory was arrested by the National Security Agency (Agence nationale de sécurité, ANS), Chads counter-espionage service. His arrest followed the 1 June publication by “L’Observateur” of an open letter from the Kreda community to President Deby denouncing the arrest of several community members and demanding their immediate release. ANS agents went to the newspaper’s editorial offices at midday and arrested the journalist in charge of coordinating that day’s work. Summoned by telephone, the newspaper’s publication director, Sy Koumbo Singa Gali, went to the premises of the ANS to demand Samory’s release. ANS agents demanded to know the name of the letter’s author, and said the journalist would otherwise be kept in detention and charged. After refusing to hand over the name of the author, Samory was transferred to the judicial police on 5 June. He was released the following day around noon.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean Ngandu, a journalist for Radio Okapi, was assaulted on 28 May in front of his home in the city of Lubumbashi, southern Katanga Province, by several men wearing Congolese army uniforms. One of the assailants reportedly told Ngandu, “You talk too much, we’re going to put an end to it,” and shot at him five times, according to local sources. Ngandu, who dropped to the ground, was not injured. It is unclear what specifically provoked the attack.
  • In Ethiopia, independent media have been the target of ongoing harassment over the past weeks. The editors and deputy editors of four privately-owned newspapers in Addis Ababa received summonses from the Central Federal Bureau of Investigation on 1 June to report to the police the next day. When they went, they were held throughout the day and were finally set free in the course of the night, without any explanation. The eight editors concerned were Zelalem Gebre of Menilik and his deputy Serkalem Fassil, Abiye Gizaw of Netsanet and his deputy Dereje Abtewold, Mesfin Tesfaye of Abay and his deputy Fekadu Indrias, and Fassil Yenalem of Zena and his deputy Simret G. Mariam. On 6 June, two journalists with the US news agency, the Associated Press, photographer Boris Heger and reporter Anthony Mitchell, were arrested during violent clashes on the campus of Addis Ababa university. They were held for seven hours, and the memory card was confiscated from Heger’s digital camera. Finally, the public television station ETV broadcast an information ministry statement withdrawing the accreditation of five Ethiopian journalists working for the Amharic-language services of the German public radio, Deutsche Welle (DW), and the US government’s Voice of America (VOA) on the evening of 7 June. Helen Mohamed, Bereket Teklu and Temam Aman of VOA, and Asegedech Yiberta and Tadesse Engdawde of DW, were accused in the statement of producing “irresponsible, baseless and invalid” reports.
  • In Libya, the body of journalist Daif al-Ghazal al-Shuhaibi was found on 2 June in the city of Benghazi. His corpse showed evidence of extensive torture and he had been killed by a shot to the head. The journalist had been missing since the night of 21 May when he was reportedly kidnapped by two armed men purporting to be state security officers. Al-Shuhaibi wrote for the UK-based online newspaper Libya Today in which he had published articles criticising Libya’s governing party the Movement of Revolutionary Committees (MRC). In 2004, the journalist appealed to intellectuals in Libya to join together to fight corruption. He had apparently received threats from the MRC as a result. Previously, he had been a journalist for four years with the MRC-controlled Al-Zahf Al-Akhdar (The Green March) newspaper but left in protest at corruption within the MRC.
  • In Sierra Leone, managing editor Sydney B. Pratt and reporter Dennis Jones of the independent weekly Trumpet were acquitted from charges of seditious libel on 7 June. The journalists were charged with the offence on 27 May, which related. a 23 May front-page article stating that Attorney General and Minister of Justice Frederick M. Carew had accepted bribes and the Presidents reaction to this. The journalists were arrested on the orders of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. The minister agreed to drop the charges if the newspaper editor published a retraction of the article. The court’s order followed the publishing of a retraction on the front page of the newspaper’s 31 May edition.
  • In Zimbabwe, SW Radio Africa station, which broadcasts from London, England, transmitted its last shortwave evening broadcast on 31 May, due to repeated jamming of its transmission signal by the Zimbabwean government. Up until then, the station had been broadcasting on multiple frequencies, a practice that was financially unsustainable due to large operating cost. The station, which is manned by Zimbabweans exiled in the United Kingdom, and was recently awarded an international press freedom prize for its efforts, is now broadcasting on medium wave for two hours in the morning (05h00 – 07h00 local time) and 24 hours a day on its website <“>http://www.swradioafrica.com> . The medium wave signal does not, however, cover the whole of Zimbabwe and many of its listeners will not be able to tune into their broadcasts.

Sources for the alerts: 
Ethiopian Free Press Journalists’ Association (EFJA), Addis Ababa 
Human Rights Watch (HRW), United States 
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), Canada 
International Press Institute (IPI), Vienna, Austria 
Journaliste En Danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo 
Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA), Ghana 
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia 
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria 
Network for the Defence of Independent Media in Africa (NDIMA), Nairobi, Kenya 
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), France

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