FAJ Alarmed over Increasing Legal and Security Threats to Journalists in Africa

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.

In Senegal,

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

in Africa.

"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

Faruk Osman,.

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

war time.

"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

tunisiens (SNJT).

For more

information contact +221 33 867 95 87

The FAJ represents over

50,000 journalists in 38 countries in Africa