Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in East Africa

This monthly newsletter provides a snapshot of the current state of freedom of expression in Eastern Africa. It was compiled by ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa with the assistance of our partners in the respective countries. Funding support has been provided by the European Union (EU): the content of the newsletter, however, does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the EU.


26 January: Television channel banned

On 26 January, the deputy chairman of Beletwein District in charge of public relations, Mr Abdikarim Shire Abdi, announced that the Hiiraan administration was banning Somali Channel Television. The television channel, which operates from the town of Beletwein in the Hiiraan region of central Somalia, had recently broadcast a report about clan fighting in the region and the report had infuriated the administration.

30 January: Journalists detained

On 30 January, security forces in Buhodle town in Northern Somalia detained several Somali journalists in a coordinated crackdown. It is alleged that members of the local town council were behind the arrests. An official in Buhodle confirmed that those arrested included journalists from Somali Channel TV and Kalsan TV, as well as SNTV correspondents in Buhodle. The journalists were arrested in their homes after they had issued a statement accusing the local council of mistreating journalists.


 22 January: Journalists challenge new laws 

On 22 January, Kenyan journalists and media owners went to court to challenge the draconian Kenya Information and Communications Amendment Bill 2013, which was signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta. They claimed that the law contravenes the constitution and should be declared null and void. The media representatives also requested an order to put a stop to the ongoing recruitment of a chairperson and other members for the Media Council of Kenya and the Communication and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal, which is being carried out as part of this contentious law.


22 January: Security guard charged with assault of Red Pepper journalist

On 22 January, a court in Iganga charged a security guard, Kemba Azizi, with the alleged assault of a Red Pepper journalist. Kemba is charged with assaulting Solomon Hamala on 13 January 2014 at Iganga Main Taxi Park in the Iganga district. It is alleged that Kemba caused Hamala grievous body harm and stole his digital camera, mobile phone and money.


3 January: EAJA slams Ethiopia over jail term for journalist

On 3 January, the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) accused the Ethiopian authorities of a continuing and unrelenting campaign of intimidation against the media. This followed a court decision to convict a newspaper journalist to a prison term of almost three years for spreading false news. Asfaw Berhanu, who was working for The Reporter newspaper until his recent dismissal, was found guilty on 25 December 2013. The charges stemmed from a news report Berhanu wrote on 4 September 2013, saying that three government officials had been removed from their positions.

27 January: Ethio-Mihidar journalists are freed

On 27 January, an Ethiopian court in Hawassa freed three journalists from the Ethio-Mihidar newspaper. The journalists were accused by Hawassa University of three charges: defamation, using the university logo without consent and falsely stating that university staff who had been arrested in corruption cases were “administrators of the University”. The court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to convict the journalists.

22 January: Sendek newspaper charged

On 22 January, the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth pressed charges against Sendek newspaper for defamation. The newspaper had published a story titled “Adoption and the gaps in law” and had accompanied it with a strong editorial titled, “The operation of adoption should start with accountability”. The ministry pressed charges against the paper’s editor-in-chief, Frew Abebe, saying that the story ‘darkens the image of the country, attacks the credibility of the justice system and dishonors the minister’. The case is ongoing.


 29 January: Journalists acquitted

On 29 January, a Tanzanian court acquitted three journalists who were charged two years ago with publishing a seditious article against the Tanzanian government. They were acquitted due to lack of evidence.

The three were prosecuted in November 2011 for writing an article in which they said that the police backed the ruling party at the expense of the opposition. The prosecution claimed that the article was calling on the police to ignore the government’s authority. The journalists concerned were Samson Mwigamba, who had worked at the Tanzania Daima (Tanzania Forever) newspaper, his editor Absalom Kibanda and Theophil Makunga of Mwananchi Communication, a local newspaper.