The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the African regional affiliate of
the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), is extremely disturbed and
concerned by the growing tendency towards enactment and enforcement of more
repressive, complicated legal sanctions against journalists.
Cameroon, Tunisia and Burundi,
journalists and their leaders face constant harassment and threats to their
safety as part of a brazen campaign to curb the right to freedom of expression
"African journalists are increasingly facing governments- inspired violence
that is intended to silence the independence and credible voice of journalism.
Increasingly, these assaults and campaign of elimination are also targeting
human rights defenders and democratic forces that fight for journalists' and
peoples' right to impartial and receive free information," says FAJ President Omar
On 10 July 10, the Senegalese First
Cabinet of the Regional Court of Dakar summoned Abdou Latif Coulibaly, Chief
Editor of the Weekly Gazette to answer charges of concealment of administrative
and private documents. The judge ordered the indictment of the journalist but
released him on bail pending conclusion of investigations. Senegalese journalists consider that the indictment
which is based on concealment of documents, constitutes in its content a
serious attack to the principle of the right that guarantees under Senegalese substantive law an absolute protection for journalists' sources of information.
"This is the most shocking and reprehensive case to be conceived by the
government's prosecutors in their blatant attempts to manipulate national laws
against independent journalism. This case, initiated by a private company and
supported by the authorities, sets a negative precedent against investigative
journalism. This mischievous, politically motivated and deliberate act of
harassment against Abdou Latif Coulibaly must stop," Omar Faruk said.
In Cameroun, Alex Gustave Azebaze, First Secretary of the National Syndicate of
Cameroonian Journalists (SNJC) and also IFJ Executive Committee member, Thierry
Ngongang, Editor-in-Chief of the privately-owned Spectrum TV; Annani Rabier
Bindzi, journalist at Canal 2 International TV and Dr Aboya Endong Manasse,
Editor of the bi-monthly newspaper Africa Top Secret have collectively been
facing a long, complicated, devastating and tiresome trial since January 2010.
Their ordeal stems from their participation in a 2008 TV debate on the police
investigations of the "Albatross" saga, the failure to explain how a Boeing 727
purchased for the President's fleet was never received, six years after local
journalists, led by Azebaze revealed the scandal while working for Le Messager.
"Our Cameroonian colleagues are held up and stranded in extremely dangerous and
tiresome legal battle that meant to take away their time, energy and resources.
Once they have been sufficiently worn down, they will be eliminated, freedom of
the press will be further eroded and fear and self censorship will replace
independent thinking in the hearts of media practitioners," said Omar.
"I reiterate our call for an end to these unjustifiable legal
proceedings and once again demand the grave action of closing down their
outlets be reversed and our colleagues are allowed to resume their normal and
useful service to the journalistic profession," he declared.
"This is the longest legal action journalists' union leadership faces in
Africa and we will not close our eyes to this
facade of sham legal action."
Zied El-Heni, member of the leadership of the National Syndicate of Tunisian
Journalists (SNJT) and the Steering Committee of FAJ has been followed
unremittingly and painstakingly by security operatives of Tunisian Government for
defending freedom of expression and campaigning for the release of detained
colleague Boukadous Fahem who provided coverage of the uprising in the mining
region of southern Tunisia.
He was summoned by the Crime Squad on July 23, 2010 to answer charges of
defamation, though he was released after four hours of detention after he
insisted and defended the legality of his writings that have not violated the
code of the press. On Tunisia's
National Day, 25 July 2010, Zied published an open letter to the district
attorney in which he expressed his indignation at the manner in which the Crime
Squad had been given leave to investigate a matter of opinion. The next
day, the Crime Squad called him to their offices.
"These repeated and unrelenting attacks against union leader Zied Elheni and
the right to free expression is one example of the gross human rights violation
that ordinary Tunisians endure daily. Security operatives in Tunisia are a
major threat to journalists and have been responsible for several attacks
against journalists. The Tunisian government has a duty to protect its citizens
from brutal elements in the security forces and must ensure that this assault
of journalists stops with immediate effect. The continuing attacks on
Zied El-Heni, an elected African journalist's leader will only increase global
attention to the deplorable situation in Tunisia. Our message is clear: stop
going after our colleagues and allow them to express themselves freely and
fearlessly," the FAJ President stated.
Journalist Jean Claude Kavumbagu, Editor of Net Press news agency in Bujumbura, Burundi,
was arrested from his office by Colonel David Nikiza, Police Chief in the
western part of Burundi.
He was arrested after he had published an article on 12 July in which he talked
about Somali extremists group Al-Shabaab's threats to attack Burundi and was
critical of Burundian security forces. He was charged with treason and faces
life in prison if convicted. When he was arrested, the police did not follow
the proper legal procedures of Burundi
and he is being held in contravention of Burundi's criminal procedure code
which states pre-trail detention of the journalists for limited situations.
Interestingly the law under which Jean Cloude is charged only applies during
"This has no other explanation except a deliberate misuse of state institutions
to harass journalists. All laws were bypassed in circumstances that can only be
interpreted as vindictive action by officers abusing their positions to settle personal
scores. Jean Claude never committed such a serious act of betrayal of
his nation and there is no point in charging him with treason. We feel
that he will not have a fair trial and we want him freed immediately," Omar
Faruk Osman said.
The Federation of African Journalists is committed to devising new strategies
to tackle the increasing abuse of legal processes and wanton attacks by
security operatives against journalists.
FAJ stands in full support and solidarity with
its affiliates: Syndicat National des Journalistes du Cameroun (SNJC), Burundi
Journalists' Union (BJU), Syndicat des Professionnels de l'Information et de la
Communication du Sénégal (SYNPICS) and Syndicat National des Journalistes
information contact +221 33 867 95 87
The FAJ represents over
50,000 journalists in 38 countries in Africa