|A public transport motorcylist drives past a mosque in central Maiduguri, in 2010 (AFP/File, Pius Utomi Ekpei)|
- Ethiopia steps up terrorism allegations against journalists
- Liberian media outlets targeted in post-election violence
- In Puntland, fourth radio station hit by grenade attack
Nigerian journalist shot dead / Islamist group claims responsibility
Authorities in northeastern Nigeria must urgently take steps to ensure the safety of media workers, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday, October 25 following Saturday’s assassination of a journalist in a shooting claimed by Islamist militants.
Zakariya Isa, 41, a reporter and cameraman with the state-run Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), was shot dead in front of his residence in Maiduguri, capital of the Northeastern state of Borno, on Saturday around 7:30 p.m. local time, Sale Mahdi, news manager of the local NTA bureau, told CPJ. Moments before the murder, the gunman and another man had approached Isa to borrow a water kettle, supposedly to perform ritual Islamic ablutions before prayer, Mahdi said. Isa had been on vacation since Friday, he added.
Today, Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group which seeks the imposition of Shariah law in the predominantly Muslim states of northern Nigeria, disclosed it was behind the killing, according to local journalists and Agence France-Presse.
AFP cited an email statement in the local Hausa language from Boko Haram spokesman Abul Qaqa, in which the militants said they “killed [Isa] not because he was a journalist but for his personal misconduct.” The statement added: “We killed him because he was spying on us for Nigerian security authorities,” according to AFP. “We have ample evidence … that he was giving vital information to security agencies on our mode of operation that led to the arrest of many of our members.”
Local journalists and Nigerian authorities rejected the accusations, according to AFP. The Boko Haram statement also warned that the group would not hesitate to “kill anybody that steps on our toes” and follows a statement in Maiduguri in September in which the group threatened to attack media organizations over what it described as misrepresentation of its activities, press reports said.
“We condemn the murder of Zakariya Isa and deplore the targeting of journalists by Boko Haram,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on Nigerian authorities to counter near-impunity in the murders of journalists by ensuring that Isa’s killers are brought to justice.”
According to Mahdi, threatening text messages from Boko Haram members and supporters prompted three journalists from the local NTA station to flee the region in recent weeks. NTA journalists also come under pressure from security forces over their coverage of Boko Haram, he said.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings and assassinations in the country, including the August 26 suicide bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria.
Isa started his career at NTA in 1992 and left behind two wives and two children, according to Mahdi.
Ethiopia steps up terrorism allegations against journalists
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi last week accused journalists in the country of being “messengers” with “terrorist” groups, while a state newspaper accused the chief editor of an independent publication of having terrorist ties and called on security forces to “take action” against him.
The America-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on October 25 said it condemns this campaign of intimidation against the private press.
In comments Thursday to Ethiopia’s ruling party-controlled Parliament, Zenawi said many journalists in Ethiopia are working with “terrorist” groups as “messengers.” He claimed the government has evidence linking imprisoned journalists to terrorist acts and is aware of other journalists working in Ethiopia with terrorist ties, local journalists told CPJ.
Since June, government authorities have arrested six independent journalists on alleged terrorism charges including Awramba Times Deputy Editor Woubshet Taye, Feteh columnist Reyot Alemu, freelance journalists Eskinder Nega and Sileshi Hagos and two Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye. Referring to Ethiopia’s private press as “vagabonds,” Zenawi accused the private press of not understanding their profession, according to local reports.
Earlier this month in an interview with Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, Zenawi said Persson and Schibbye were accomplices to terrorists and “are not journalists.”
Zenawi’s remarks to parliament came one day after state-run daily Addis Zemen (“New Era”) published a scathing attack against independent weekly Awramba Times in what appears to be part of prolonged smear campaign against the paper and its chief editor, Dawit Kebede. The Amharic-language daily published an opinion piece entitled “How long shall we tolerate violence-mongers,” that urged security forces to “take action” against Kebede, according to a translation of the article commissioned by CPJ.
The paper accused Kebede, a CPJ international press freedom award winner, of working with “terrorist groups” and called on the government to revoke the conditional pardon that led to his release in 2007 after 21 months in prison – a stint that followed the 2005 post-election crackdown on Ethiopia’s private press. The recent Addis Zemen comments are the latest installment in a series of articles critical of the independent weekly, according to local journalists. In July, Judge Muluken Teshale dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by Kebede and his Blue Earth PLC media company against Addis Zemen Editor-in-Chief Anteneh Haylu and the paper’s publisher, the Ethiopian Press Agency, according to CPJ research.
“This latest outburst by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is part of a systematic campaign to use allegations of terrorism to wipe out critical journalism in Ethiopia. The smear campaign by state media contributes to the climate of fear,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “Through this intimidation of the private press, Ethiopia is sacrificing its legitimacy as a democratic government.”
The entire staff of the former leading independent paper, Addis Neger, fled into exile in 2009 after Addis Zemen accused the paper of promoting anti-constitutional groups by covering the banned political party Ginbot 7.
Liberian media outlets targeted in post-election violence
The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ condemns Monday’s (October 17) arson attack against a Liberian radio station and threats made against another radio station’s journalists in response to their coverage of Liberia’s presidential elections.
At around 3 a.m. on Monday, unidentified assailants in a red pickup threw a Molotov cocktail at Love FM, a station favorable to main opposition party Congress for Democratic Change, Jallah Griefield, news director of the station’s parent company Love Media Group, told Agence France-Presse. The station went off the air for three hours and resumed broadcasting since the technical studios were damaged but not the station’s transmitters, said Paul Mulbah, the station’s owner, according to press reports.
CPJ said on October 19 that Griefield told them that “the station had received threatening text messages and phone calls over its favorable coverage of the Congress for Democratic Change, the party contesting incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s bid for a second five-year term in this month’s polls.”
Nine opposition parties have contested the official results of the October 11 first round of voting that placed Sirleaf, a 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, ahead of Congress’ candidate, Winston Tubman, on the basis of allegations of poll-rigging, according to news reports. A run-off was scheduled for November 8.
In a Monday press statement, the Press Union of Liberia also expressed alarm at the harassment and intimidation of two talk-show hosts of pro-Sirleaf station Truth FM over their coverage of the elections. Unidentified assailants attempted to break into the home of Truth FM journalist Smith Toby early Monday, according to news reports, while his colleague, Patrick Honnah, reported receiving threatening phone calls and text messages, Press Union President Peter Quaqua told CPJ.
“Liberians have a right to hear reports and commentary on the full range of political opinions in the country,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita “We condemn attempts to restrict that right through violence and intimidation against journalists. We urge the police to conduct a timely and transparent investigation into these attacks and threats and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Liberia National Police spokesman George Bardue told CPJ on Wednesday that one suspect for the arson attack on Love FM was in custody. Monday’s attack followed a Saturday arson attack on the headquarters of Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party, according to news reports.
In Puntland, fourth radio station hit by grenade attack
The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ condemns Tuesday’s (October 18) grenade attack on a Puntland radio station and calls for authorities to take immediate steps to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.
This was the third local radio station hit with a blast in three months, CPJ research showed.
On Tuesday evening, a grenade was hurled into the studios of Radio Galkayo, a community radio station covering local news and current affairs based in the city of Galkayo in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. The blast destroyed the back wall and a window to the office of Managing Director Abdullahi Hersi, local reports said. No one was hurt in the attack, but the station’s staff was working in fear, the reports said.
In January 2010, Radio Galkayo was damaged by a grenade that destroyed one studio and a roof, local journalists said.
“This is the second grenade attack against Radio Galkayo since last year and represents a clear attempt to intimidate the station into silence,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “Authorities must make genuine efforts to look into this string of attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
A total of four grenade attacks against Puntland-based radio stations have occurred since 2010, according to CPJ research. In October 2010, unknown assailants threw a grenade at the private broadcaster Horseed FM. In August, unidentified assailants threw a grenade at Radio Daljir. Earlier in May, an unexploded bomb was found in front of Radio Daljir’s gate, the Somali journalists’ union reported.
Working conditions for journalists in Puntland have been extremely dangerous recently, CPJ research shows. On September 14, unknown assailants shot Radio Galkayo journalist Horroyo Abdulkadir four times after she left the station. On September 22, unidentified gunmen shot Radio Codka Nabdda (Voice of Peace) reporter Hassan Mohamed Ali twice at a tea shop just outside the station, local journalists told CPJ. Both journalists are receiving treatment for severe injuries.
In a September press release, Puntland’s Ministry of Security blamed a wave of assassinations and bombings gripping the region since 2006 on the hard-line Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab. More than 30 public figures, including community leaders, intellectuals, and officials, have been assassinated in the violence since 2008, according to local news reports.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
- Distributed via Africa Press Organisation, APO