AU Human Rights Commission Urged to Combat Impunity for Crimes against journalists

The

Federation of African Journalists, the African group of the International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and the Eastern Africa Journalists Association

(EAJA) in a statement supported by the International Trade Union Confederation

of the African Region (ITUC-Africa) today told the 50th Ordinary

Session of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR), sitting

in Banjul, The Gambia, that African continent is experiencing renewed and

aggressive premeditated attacks on journalists, and media organisations in an

attempt to control, manipulate and censor the free press and free speech.

"Journalists

continue to face deadly attacks, criminal charges, intimidation and harassments

by security forces and, in some cases, with manifest support of judicial

authorities," said Omar Faruk Osman, FAJ President, who is also the Secretary

General of EAJA, during his address at the 50th session of the

African Union's human rights body.

"We

address this august gathering of AU members States, National Human Rights

Institutions and Civil Society to highlight the repressive and precarious

conditions in which journalists work in Africa and to call on the African

Commission on Human and Peoples" Rights for urgent actions to secure effective

protection for media professionals," said Osman.

To

elucidate the concerns, FAJ and EAJA stated that Somalia still remains the most

deadly country to be a journalist and practice journalism in Africa as media

professionals continue to pay the ultimate price. Two journalists were killed

within one month in Mogadishu and the African Union peacekeeping troops in

Somalia (AMISOM) are the prime suspects of these killings, though AMISOM

admitted the murder of one journalist.

In

September 2011, journalists and the free expression community commemorated the

10th anniversary of the brutal repression on the right to freedom of

expression in Eritrea which has been decidedly hostile to media over the last

decade and has the largest number of journalists, about 30, serving in jail, in

extremely pathetic conditions and are kept incommunicado. Access to the country

is limited and there is very little information about the conditions of the

journalists, four of whom are reported to have died in dreadful military

prisons. Eritrea is today the worst jailer of journalists in Africa.

Five

journalists, among them two from Sweden, have been charged under anti-terror

laws by the Ethiopian government which is also threatening other journalists

under the same legislation which led many more to flee into exile. The climate

of fear brought by the renewed squelching has severely limited the rights of

journalists to do their work and impacted on the free flow of information in a

country that already has restrictive laws against media freedom.

The

Sudanese security forces have sustained their onslaught on editors and

reporters of the print media in Khartoum, charging a number of them with crimes

based on despicable laws and harassing individual journalists, raiding media

outlets and confiscating copies of newspapers. Before and after the

presidential pardon of Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir to detained

journalists in August 2011, harassment, intimidation and attacks on journalists

by the security apparatchik in Khartoum continue unabated.

The

shrinking space for press freedom and protection of journalists in Burundi is

another issue of great concern to the African journalists' community. The

government of Burundi has intensified it efforts to create and instill fear in

the hearts of journalists through direct attacks and the deployment of

sophisticated tactics to pile pressure on journalists. Burundi has issued the

largest number of summons to a particular journalist on the continent in this

current year. Security forces of Burundi continue to trail and spy on

journalists, including the top leadership of Union Burundaise des Journalists.

Two media outlets have sacked 25 journalists under the pretext of financial

operational difficulties. However, we have strong cause to believe that these

journalists were sacked on the basis of pressure from the authorities on the

media owners because of these journalists' critical and independent reporting.

In

Nigeria, militia groups continue to kidnap, attack and kill journalists as part

of their strategies to gain publicity and visibility as well as deplore fear

against the state and entire populace. On Saturday 22nd October

2011, in Maiduguri, Northeast Nigeria, a journalist was shot dead by the

notorious Boko Haram sect.

In

recent months, violence against journalists and the media community has

intensified in DRC. Gunmen murdered one journalist in June; dozens of others

were beaten, assaulted by the security forces (eight in two months). Arsonists

razed two media houses down. All these acts have gone uninvestigated, while

justice for the victims and owners of the outfits is in limbo. As the country

approaches the elections on 28 November, intolerance, intimidation, threats and

other degrading practices against journalists may make an already precarious

situation worse.

In

Zimbabwe, arrests,

detentions, threats, harassment, intimidation, repressive laws and violence

have been used against journalists and other media personnel. The Cameroonian

authorities continue to endanger the safety and security of journalists and

randomly detain journalists without charge.

In Uganda,

the government of President Yoweri Museveni continues its repressive acts on

the media, with security personnel beating and injuring a number of journalists

during the "walk to work" protests. People who carried out these acts as well

as previous ones have gone uninvestigated and unprosecuted. Clearly, the state

and the Government of Uganda tacitly and openly support impunity. As supporting

evidence, on the 12th of October 2011 during his Presidential

address, President Yoweri Museveni publicly and verbally insulted and assaulted

a journalist, calling him an idiot in response to the current oil bribery

crisis rocking the Ugandan parliament.  

"We appeal

to the Commission to take all necessary actions aimed at effective protection

of journalists, especially by calling on the states concerned to decisively

pursue accountability and justice so as to rein in impunity for crimes committed

against journalists," added Osman.

For more information

contact the FAJ at   +221 33 867 95 86/87

The FAJ represents over

50,000 journalists in 40 countries in Africa