EAJA Bulletin - July 2002

East Africa Journalists Association

Ethiopia: Government Told to Remove Restrictions

The New York based Committee to protect journalists (C P J) has called on the Ethiopian government to stop restrictions on journalists. In an alert released on 25 July 2002, in Addis Ababa after a five day fact finding mission to Ethiopia the delegation condemned the Ethiopian government's impending changes on the country's 10-year-old press laws that would severely restrict the rights of Ethiopia's already beleaguered private press corps. Josh Friedman, a CPJ board member, said "This is the third time in six years that CPJ has visited Ethiopia, and we are disappointed that the government does not live up to its repeated promises to improve conditions for local journalists". He, along with CPJ Africa program coordinator Yves Sorokobi, was part of the mission. Kifle Mulat, the EFJA president, said, "Formulating, issuing and implementing professional codes of ethics is the exclusive right of freely organized associations and the free society and not the right of the rulers".

Although Information Minister Simon Bereket told the CPJ delegation that the new law would promote "constructive and responsible journalism," journalists said the statutes would lead to a crackdown, driving many of them out of business and behind bars.

Meanwhile, three Ethiopian journalists; Tewodros Kassa, Lubaba Said, Zegeye Haile are currently in jail on various charges of "disseminating false information that could incite people to political violence" and "defamation."

EFJA Wins Prestigious Award

The Ethiopian free Press Journalists Association has won the "Freedom to Write Award 2002". It is one of the two Awards which International PEN USA WEST gives out every year to writers, journalists, professional artists and dramatists who have made outstanding contributions in their fields. Pen International, which was established in 1921, has more than 15,000 members throughout the world. The EFJA is also the recipient of the "FREE MEDIA PIONEER AWARD- 1999" and a nominee for the UNESCO Press Freedom Award 2002.

Meanwhile, the EFJA president Kifle Mulat has said press laws in Ethiopia need to be interpreted in line with international standards on press practices. " I think the police, the prosecutors and the judges need orientation on how to handle press cases," he said. He expressed fear that, unless the government and the pertinent authorities take urgent measures about the exorbitant bail money being imposed on the members of the free press, its existence and well being which is the expression of a democratic system would be put into question.

Kenya - Media Opts for Self-regulation

The media industry in Kenya has finally launched a self-regulatory and non-statutory body to manage its affairs. The Media Council of Kenya, launched early June brings together, players from the media, training institutions and civil society to form an arbitration body on matters pertaining to the conduct of the media in Kenya.

The move to set up the non-statutory body was welcome but some observers were not quite comfortable with the inclusion of practicing journalists as councillors. There was also scepticism from others who felt that the whole process was rushed into without adequate consultations among the key stakeholders.

Kenyan Journalists Demand New Laws

The Kenya union of journalists, (KUJ), wants the offences of contempt of court, criminal libel and subversion to be abolished in the new constitution.

In a presentation to the constitution of Kenya review commission the union officials said the government's power to prohibit publications should be outlawed. The journalists said the laws of contempt and criminal libel are outdated and serve no useful purpose in a constitutional democracy. The officials urged the constitutional review body to entrench the freedom of expression in the new constitution by expressly guaranteeing the right to seek information.

Meanwhile a local news agency has gone to court to challenge the Books and Newspapers act the law requiring publishers to execute bonds of Ksh 1 million to run newspapers and magazines. The news agency wants the Attorney General restrained by the constitutional court from implementing the law until the case is finalised. The plaintiff wants the court to declare the law unconstitutional as it contravenes section 79 of the constitution of Kenya, which sanctifies the freedom of expression. In addition the applicant claims the law is discriminatory as it favours rich publishers.

Tanzania - Degrees for Journalists

The Tanzania school of journalism may soon be integrated with the University of Dar es salaam to offer degree courses in journalism. According to a report by the MCT's Media Watch, Tanzania scholars are working hard to ensure that the programme is ready before the September opening date. The university will offer degree courses in journalism, mass communication as well as Public Relations and advertising.

The merger however awaits the presidential ascent to declare Tanzania School of journalism an Institute of the University of Dar es salaam.

Meanwhile, the Executive Sectretary of the Media council of Tanzania Mr. Anthony Ngaiza has decried the lack of adequate training within the Tanzanian media. Speaking to the visiting Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) officials, Mr Ngaiza said there was a deficiency in basic training, advanced level training and specialised training in different and emerging fields. He said the number of trained personnel did not correspond to the number of vacancies in the emerging media outlets.

The Norwegian Ambassador to Tanzania Sigrid Romundset said the NORAD officials were studying the situation of media in the country, in order to get involved in the training of journalists, to promote their standards.

Comments/Enquiries

Martin Ocholi

Coordinator Eastern Africa

P.O. Box: 9594-00100 Nairobi-GPO

Tel /Fax: 254 2 2720021

E-mail: mfdia@planetcyb.co.ke


EAJA Bulletin is compiled bi-monthly by the Eastern Africa Journalists Association Network, which is part of the Media For Democracy in Africa programme supported by the European Union and managed by the International Federation of Journalists.