Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Governments must free locked up journalists

Omar Faruk Osman, FAJ President: PIX: UNESCO
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), its pan-African representative, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and Eastern African Journalists Association (EAJA) urges the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to press its member states to urgently free all imprisoned journalists.

In a statement delivered at the ongoing 51st Ordinary Session of the ACHPR in Banjul, the Gambia (18th April - 2nd May, 2012), the President of FAJ, Omar Faruk Osman, called on the African Commission to ensure member states end the use of anti-terror laws against journalists doing their journalistic work.

He said the Commission should also ensure it member states stop the violent repression against journalists and urgently address the worsening physical safety, and legal security situation of journalists in the continent.

The three journalists’ bodies, EAJA, FAJ and IFJ stated that media freedom in Africa continues to be under serious assault from different players, among them the governments of countries in Africa.

“The situation in Somalia remains very dire and dangerous, with five journalists’ murdered since last year, sadly keeping Somalia as the most deadly country for journalist in Africa,” said Mr. Osman, who added: “In this month, a suicide bomb in Mogadishu injured 11 journalists as they covered a ceremony at the national theater.”

According to him, there have been intimidation and arrests of journalists across the country, including Radio journalist Awke Abdullahi, who is currently detained for more than a month in the northern city of Bossasso.
He also noted that Eritrea stand as the worst jailer of journalist in Africa. At least 32 journalists are in prison without charge or trial for more than ten years, while the Eritrean government has already accepted the death of four journalists in detention.

He said: “We are extremely concerned by the indifference of the world community in addressing this cold-hearted, cruel and degrading situation.” 

In Ethiopia, he said four journalists were arrested, charged convicted with terrorism and each was given more than ten years imprisonment. 

The Ethiopian judiciary system had insisted to use anti terrorism laws against the journalists, while the media operate within repressive laws and media outlets and journalists remain cowed.

“It is the only country in Africa, other than Burundi where journalists have been charged with “treason,” laments.  

The media and journalist in Sudan have faced a number of challenges, as security agencies routinely raided and closed down independent publications. A number of journalists have been arrested and arraigned in court while some were released.

Speaking further on the plight of African journalists, the FAJ President, Omar Faruk Osman, stated the Government of Brundi largely remain hostile to the media and journalists.

These hostilities towards journalists include the leaders of the journalists union. The government is currently holding Hassan Ruvakuki after he was arrested in November 2011 over allegations of “working closely” with outlawed groups opposed to the government, he explains.

In Tunisia, he said forces in the capital, Tunis ran amok with baton rounds and tear gas on journalists covering demonstrations on Martyrs’ Day on 9th April, 2012 and 14 journalists were beaten, some seriously hurt.  

“In Guinea Bissau, we are gravely concerned by the deprivation of the people of Guinea-Bissau from the right to information following 12 April, 2012 military coup and leaders of the military have restricted journalists’ freedom to report news and information,” he said. 

He added: “We are also concern about the situation in Nigeria where the notorious Boko Haram sect are inflicting violence against civilians, and had made claims for the killing of the first journalist this year.

He noted that violence and institutionalized intimidation of journalists and press freedom advocates in Zimbabwe, Dr. Congo and Cameroon remain in serous distress. 

“And we are very disappointed with sustained repression of journalists’ rights in these countries,” he said, while “expressing serious concern about insecurity faced by Malian journalists after mutinying soldiers took over the state broadcasting building.”

On this back drop, the FAJ president urge the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ACHPR, to press its Member States to urgently free all imprisoned journalists, end use of anti-terror laws against journalists doing their journalistic work.

He also exhorts for the ACHPR to demand its member states to end violent repression against journalists and urgently address the worsening physical safety and legal security situation of journalists in the continent.

Source: The Voice

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