Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa

This monthly newsletter provides a snapshot of the status of Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa. It was compiled by ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa with the assistance of its partners in the respective countries.


16 January 2015: Journalist’s appeal rejected

The Ethiopia Federal Supreme Court rejected journalist Temesgen Desalegn’s appeal, confirming his three-year sentence. Temesgen, the former editor of Feteh, a defunct weekly newspaper, had been convicted on 27 October 2014 by the Federal High Court on charges of defamation and distorting public opinion, in relation to articles he published two years ago.


17 January 2015: Defamation suit dismissed

The High Court refused to award Ainamoi Member of Parliament (MP) Samuel Chepkonga compensation for alleged libel and slander. The MP had been charged with fraud but was cleared of the criminal charges in February 2006. After his acquittal, he sued the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Attorney-General. He sought damages for malicious prosecution, libel, slander and three years’ lost earnings when he was forced to resign as Director-General of the Communication Commission of Kenya due to the corruption case. Chepkonga argued that his case was widely reported in the media and accused the EACC and the Attorney-General of triggering the media reports. However, Justice George Odunga dismissed the defamation claim, saying the media were privileged to report on court proceedings.


3 January 2015: Police detain journalists

Mohamed Abdiwahab Abdullahi (Director of Risaala Radio), Risaala Radio editor Mohamed Kaafi Sheik Abukar and a reporter, Mohamed Abdi Ali, were arrested after they obeyed a summons to appear before the Somali police for questioning. Abdiwahab later told the staff to shut down the radio station without explaining the reason for their arrest. It was, however, suspected that the radio station was closed after reporting on an unconfirmed case of the Ebola virus in Somalia. The journalists were released on 5 January without being charged.

4 January 2015: Arbitrary detention of journalists

Mohamed Salaad Osman, the Head of Programmes of Goobjoog Radio, and his reporter, Ibrahim Haji Yusuf, were arrested. According to Goobjoog Radio, the arrests took place while the men were covering an explosion in the Waberi neighborhood. They were later released.

12 January 2015: Court orders newspaper closure

The Court of Appeals in Hargeisa ordered the closure of Haatuf newspaper a day after the Regional Court lifted a ban on the newspaper. The newspaper was closed in April 2014 after being accused of publishing false information.

16 January 2015: Station attacked

Hand grenades were hurled at Radio Galkacyo’s headquarters in the central Somali region of Mudug.
The attack was carried out by unidentified attackers who immediately fled the scene. No one was injured.

21 January: Puntland journalists arrested

Puntland authorities briefly arrested Hussein Yasin, editor of the Shacabkamedia website in the administration’s capital in Garowe. Many journalists believe he was arrested for his critical reporting about the administration.


23 January 2015: Newspaper banned

The East African newspaper was banned from circulation in Tanzania because it “had been circulating in the country without having registration, contrary to section 6 of the Newspaper Act number 3 of 1976”. In a letter dated 21 January 2015, the weekly newspaper was directed to stop publishing, printing and circulating immediately throughout Tanzania ”until it has officially been registered by Registrar of Newspaper, Tanzania Information Services”.

Before the letter was issued, the newspaper’s Bureau Chief, Christopher Kidanka, had been summoned and interrogated by the Director of Information Services, Mr Assa Mwambene, who also doubles as the government’s spokesman. During the session, the government expressed displeasure at the newspaper’s reporting and analysis (including the opinion pieces it publishes).

Mr Mwambene accused the newspaper of having an agenda against Tanzania. As a case in point, he singled out a recent opinion piece criticising the Dar es Salaam administration’s stance on Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr Mwambene also took exception to the cartoon in that week’s issue of The East African, which he said demonstrated bad taste and disrespect to the person and office of the President.


12 January 2015: Police officer suspended for assaulting journalists

Senior police officer Joram Mwesigye, the Division Police Commander (DPC) for Old Kampala police station, was suspended for assaulting Lwanga Andrew (Wavah Broadcasting Services Television) and Joseph Ssettimba (Bukedde Television). Lwanga sustained injuries to the head and was admitted to Mulago National Referral Hospital, while Ssettimba’s trousers were torn during the scuffle. The journalists were assaulted while covering a demonstration by a group of unemployed young people. The young people were reportedly heading to the police headquarters in Naguru to petition the Inspector General of Police (IGP), General Kale Kayihura. They were intercepted and dispersed by police along the Namirembe road at around midday.