This monthly newsletter provides a snapshot of attacks against freedom of expression in Eastern Africa during November 2014. It was compiled by ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa with the assistance of our partners in the respective countries.
Continuing abuse of two female journalists in custody
4 November 2014: Mahlet Fantahun and Edom Kassaye, who face terrorism-related charges, complained to the Federal Court of mistreatment while being held at Kality Prison. This was in spite of the Court’s prior order for their rights to be respected. The Court ordered the Prison Director to appear in court at their next hearing in order to respond to the allegations.
Court orders amendment to Zone 9ers charge
9 November 2014: The Lideta Federal Court ordered the Federal Prosecutor to amend the charge against six bloggers (Zone 9ers) and three journalists.
The Court asked the Prosecutor to list all the individual accusations against them and to identify the terrorist organisations with which they are alleged to have collaborated.
The Court also ordered the Prosecutor to explicitly list the types of strategy and mission the defendants used to execute their alleged terrorism plan.
Finally, the Court stated that the source of the money which the accused are alleged to have received from terrorist groups and its purpose must be clearly identified, along with each defendant’s activity and role in the alleged act of terrorism.
Two journalists charged with defamation
17 November 2014: Enqu magazine’s managing editor Amsalu GebreKidan and the editor Elias Gebru were charged with defamation. They were asked to post bail of Birr 20, 000 (USD $1000). Both of them are accused by Jimma University of publishing an article containing negative comments against the Oromo ethnic group. It was also claimed that authorities were attempting to link the paper’s publication to the deadly clashes between Oromo student protesters and security forces that took place in April 2014.
Broadcast authority to sue media
23 November 2014: The Ethiopian Broadcast Authority told parliament that it is planning to sue “some” publications though it did not name them. Officials from the broadcast authority told parliament that some publications have unknown financial sources.
Journalists barred from church
10 November 2014: Journalists from The Standard and KTN were barred from entering preacher Victor Kanyari’s Salvation Healing Ministry after they exposed questionable miracles that took place in his church.
Lawyer sued for defamation
14 November 2014: Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government Joseph Ole Lenku took city lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi to court for allegedly defaming him and misusing social media.
Lenku claims that Abdullahi posted a defamatory tweet about him on Twitter and declined to send him an apology even after he sent him notice requiring him to do so. He claims that Mr Abdullahi made serious and unsubstantiated allegations and should therefore be prosecuted for misusing social media.
The messages were allegedly posted between 7 October and 2 November 2014 and quoted in the Nairobi Law Monthly, Nairobi Business and a local Sunday newspaper.
The Cabinet Secretary is seeking compensation for damage caused as well as a permanent injunction blocking anybody else from publishing the messages.
14 November 2014: Security men from the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), notoriously known as “Men in Black”, confronted journalists and blocked cameras pointing at the main dais. The journalists, who were covering the ODM delegates meeting in Oyugis, Homa Bay County, were menacingly told, “Hatutaki mambo yenu hapa (We don’t want you here)”. This followed comments by a number of politicians who accused the media of fuelling trouble in the ODM.
Soldiers detain journalist
22 November 2014: Mburu Gaita, a QTV cameraman in Murang’a, was detained for several hours by soldiers as he was covering a military recruitment exercise at Kiumu primary school in the Kahuro district. Gaita was challenged by officers, who ordered him to sit down on the ground, confiscated his camera and removed the memory card.
Journalists locked out of parliament
25 November 2014: Journalists were locked out of parliament premises on what police said were “undisclosed security grounds.” The journalists had gone there to cover the proceedings of the Lands Committee where Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu was appearing.
4 November 2014: Police arrested Mohamed Abdullahi Soofadhiiste, a reporter with the Somali Channel Television, at a disputed livestock centre where he was planning to film a report. He was released after being held for a short while.
12 November 2014: Nuurre Mohamed Ali, a Mogadishu-based freelance journalist, suffered serious leg injuries after a bomb attached to his car exploded. At the time, the journalist was driving along Taleh Street in the Hodan district, close to the KM4 junction in Mogadishu.
Media shutoff and journalists arrested
17 November 2014: The Somaliland regional administration authorities took Hargeisa-based opposition radio station Baadi-Goob FM off the air. They also arrested four broadcasters and are planning to take them to court on unspecified charges. The security forces also confiscated the broadcasters’ radio equipment.
18 November 2014: Abdirisaq Ali Abdi (alias ‘Silver’), a 25-year-old journalist was shot five times by two gunmen in Galkayo, in the semi-autonomous Puntland region of central Somalia. The journalist, who worked for Radio Daljir and London-based Horn TV, was taken to Mudug General Hospital, where he later died.