Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa

Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa - Civic Space

At the printing press of Newsline, staff look at their most recent edition. Charles Kabonero (managing director) and his colleagues had to flee to Uganda after their independent weekly Umuseso newspaper was banned in their native country. Now working in exile in Kampala, Charles and his colleagues started a new newspaper Newsline.

January 2016

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


28 January: Foreign journalist Jean-Philippe Remy and photojournalist Philip Edward Moore, while on assignment for French daily newspaper Le Monde in capital city Bujumbura, were arrested and detained by police.

Presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe posted on Twitter, confirming that the two had been arrested, and their equipment confiscated, during the police raids on the neighbourhoods of Nyakabiga and Jabe, which also saw 17 people arrested and weapons seized. Pressure from international human rights and media groups including from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius meant that the journalists were released on 29 January.

29 January: Hermes Ntibandetse of Radio Publique Africaine, which was one of the biggest independent stations in the country before being shut down by the government last May, was arrested and interrogated for an hour before being released.


5 January: Judith Akolo was interrogated by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) after she retweeted a post from December 31 2015 from Patrick Safari (@moderncorps), which questioned why an advert for police promotions was released on the same day of the deadline.  Section 29 of Kenya’s Information and Communication Act (KICA) regarding ‘improper use of a licensed telecommunication gadget’ is being increasingly used by state officials to target those communicating online.

6 January: Denis Galava, Special Projects Editor at Nation Media Group, was suspended for an editorial deemed critical of the government, published 2 January. The article criticized President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, and touched on the issues of security, unemployment, economic stagnation, corruption, and poor leadership.

12 January: Brian Otieno, popularly known as Odhiambo Otieno, was arrested and charged with ‘misuse of telecommunication gadget’.  Odhimbo said that three police officers came to the Kenya News Agency offices at Prosperity House building in Kisumu, and arrested him for allegedly defaming a gubernatorial aspirant (a candidate for government) on social media. He said the officers asked that Dr. Hezron Mc’Obewa, a political aspirant had wanted to talk to him. He was then detained at the police station.

12 January: journalist Elijah Kinyanjui was arrested and charged under Section 29 of KICA after sharing a photo of a governor’s daughter on social media which showed her in a bad light.

19 January: Eddy Reuben Illah was arrested and charged with publishing prohibited material for sharing images of what he alleged were Kenyan soldiers killed in an Al Shabaab attack, via a WhatsApp group. Illah denied the charge and was remanded in custody pending the hearing of his case on 9 February.

19 January: Cyprian Nyakundi, was arrested and detained for 24 hours.  Nyakundi was detained after tweeting about a construction company that was linked to Mombasa Governor, Hassan Joho.

21 January: Patrick Safari, a prison warden, popularly known as ‘Modern Corps’, was arrested for posting comments regarding the Al Shabaab attack at the KDF camp in El-Adde, Somalia. He spent the night in the cell being interrogated. His three mobile phones and laptop were confiscated by police. Safari regularly provides security updates via his social media accounts.

21 January: Anthony Njoroge Mburu, known as Waime Mburu, was arrested and charged with publishing false information. He was charged with three counts of harmful publication contrary to section 66(1) of the Penal code. According to the charge sheet, he is alleged to have posted false words on social media on January 8 which were intended to cause harm to Charlotte Wangui, who manages Sea Cross Farm in Kwale. According to section 66(1) of the Penal code of Kenya, any person who publishes any false statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public, or to disturb the public peace, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

21 January: a female journalist was mishandled after she picked up a call from a ‘perceived political enemy’ of the Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria. She was covering a scuffle between Ethics and Anti Corruption Commision officialsand the Governor when the anti-corruption detectives went for a search in his house over corruption allegations.

23 January: Yassin Juma, a freelance journalist and blogger was arrested and held under the Section 29 of KICA. Detectives interrogated Juma over what he had posted on social media about the terror attack on a KDF camp in El-Adde, Somalia which left an unknown number of soldiers dead. Yassin was held at the Muthaiga Police Station over posts which provided updates of the attack.

27 January: Elkana Jacob, of the Star newspaper, was arrested at the Likoni Channel while driving home. He was taken to Makupa police station where police claimed he had illegally photographed the station. Jacob said his arrest was actually due to a story he had published the previous day regarding two police officers who were discharged after they were allegedly caught by President Uhuru Kenyatta taking bribes from motorists.


29 January: Abdirisak Omar Ahmed, a freelance journalist and contributor to privately-owned Somali-language news website Xogmaal, was held without charges following his arrest by Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency in December 2015 near the Jubba Hotel, in the Shanghani district of Mogadishu, according to ARTICLE 19’s partner organisation, National Union of Somalia Journalists (NUSOJ).

Abdirisak was detained alongside journalist Abdukar Mohamed Ali, of Star FM, while the pair were walking to a coffee shop. Abdukar was released without charge the next day, but Abdirisak remains in detention, and has not been brought before the court, according to his family and the Somalia journalists union.He is being held at the intelligence agency headquarters near the presidential palace in Mogadishu, according to Mohamed Ibrahim, secretary-general of the government-recognized NUSOJ.

South Sudan

22 January:  Innocent Ngbati, a reporter working for the Government owned Yambio FM, was beaten and injured by prison officers as he was taking photos and talking to eyewitnesses at the scene where a police commissioner had been shot dead. Police alleged Ngbati was one of the people who shot the Commissioner.

23 January: Silvestro Ruati a journalist working for the Catholic Radio Network, Anisa FM in Yambio, was arrested and detained by the national security officials.  Ruit was alleged to be a member of the Arrow Boys, but refuted the charges and was later released.


15 January: The Tanzanian government permanently banned Mawio newspaper, an independent publication.Announcing the ban, the Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Mr Nape Nnauye, said the decision was reached after the newspaper embarked on a series of news articles that, according to him, “had all the indications of inciting violence in the country.”

Mawio editors, Jabir Idrissa and Simon Mkina, were summoned and questioned by police about the paper’s coverage of Zanzibar, according to Mkina who spoke to ARTICLE 19 via email.  They were ordered to report daily to a local police station until further notice, said Mkina. He said no formal charges had been made against them.


7 January: Ben Byarabaha, managing editor of the privately owned daily newspaper Red Pepper, and Dickson Mubiru, managing editor of Kamunye, a privately-owned weekly publication, were summoned and questioned regarding the source of a photograph of the body of a man the newspapers identified as Christopher Aine, chief of security for Ugandan presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi. The two editors were released after being held for 24 hours without charge. Media reports said police arrested the editors, after they refused to disclose how they got the photograph. The two were not allowed to speak to or see anyone until they were released.

12 January: Mulindwa Mukasa, a journalist and human rights activist, had his house broken into and laptops, two video cameras, a mobile phone, three harddrives, and 500,000 Uganda shillings taken. According Human Rights Network for journalists (HRNJ-Uganda) the intruders forced open Mukasa’s back door while he was asleep. Mukasa was quoted by (HRNJ-Uganda) saying “These were not ordinary thieves. It was a highly sophisticated intrusion into my house which I believe did not last long. They were interested in items where I store my information. They specifically went for information gadgets and ignored items that I would expect an ordinary thief to carry such as TV, Radio and even a brand new (boxed) home theater system among other things”.

14 January: Andrew Lwanga, a reporter for Wavah Broadcasting Services (WBS) Television, testified against the former Division Police Commander of Old Kampala Police Station, Joram Mwesigye, who is accused of assaulting the journalist. However Lwanga’s damaged camera was not produced in court, and the police could not trace its whereabouts. Detective Assistant Superintendent of police Angenyo Moureen, who was investigating the case against Lwanga told that court that during her investigations, she recovered a camera with the writings “WBS”, and exhibited it together with Ssetimba’s torn trousers and the sketch plan. However, when prosecution, led by Patricia Chingtho, asked for the camera to be produced in court for identification by the witness, it was not available, forcing court to adjourn the hearing for nearly an hour. When the hearing resumed, the camera still had not been brought to court. The prosecutor continued examining the witness, despite no report being given about the missing camera.

15 January: The government announced that journalists without a university qualification will be barred from covering Parliament. The Parliamentary Commission sent a letter to news outlets which said journalists without university degrees would be barred from covering Parliament as of May 2016. Chris Obore, the communication manager for Parliament, defended the decision, saying journalists with degrees are the ones who can ably follow debate in parliament and report appropriately to the public.

Parliament also withdrew office space from the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association; a move journalists said threatened the relationship between journalists and the Parliamentary Commission.

17 January: Galiwango Ronald, of the privately-owned station NTV; Kenneth Oryema, of the privately-owned daily New Vision; Ernest Kyazze, from the privately-owned daily Bukedde; and Julius Ariong, correspondent for the independent Daily Monitor in Moroto were assaulted by George Obia, the Moroto district police commander. Media reports said the four reporters went to cover an alleged road block, set up by police to prevent an opposition presidential candidate from reaching his supporters in Nadiket. Obia threatened the journalists and ordered them to hand over a camera. Their equipment were damaged according to reports.

18 January: Ali Golooba Lukuuba, a journalist for Radio Buddu, a privately-owned station based in Masaka, was beaten, and his equipment confiscated by security guards while covering a function by local politician Hajji Muyanja Mbabaali. Media reports said Lukuuba was accosted by six security guards, who asked him why he was recording their candidate. The men then hit and kicked the journalist, and confiscated his equipment.

Lukuuba said even after identifying himself as a journalist and showing them his ID, they continued beating him. According to the Human Rights Network for Journalists, a local rights organization, he has had pain in his leg, back, and chest since the assault.

18 January: Threejournalists, Eddie Muhumuza of Hub for Investigative Media (HIM), Kenson Bugembe and Mohamed Safe, from Uganda Media Center, were arrested for taking pictures of Kaweesa Richard (music artist) as he demanded payment of 52 million Uganda shillings for his song from Africell. Muhumuza and Kaweesa were both charged with criminal trespass, but granted police bond after seven hours of detention. Bugembe and Safe were forced to delete pictures of Kaweesa and released without charge.

20 January:  Endigyito FM ceased broadcasting after the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) revoked the station’s license, and confiscated its broadcasting equipment only a day after the station aired an interview with opposition presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi. Uganda is slated for presidential elections on February 18.

Media reports indicated that UCC director Godfrey Mutabaazi initially said the station’s license was suspended because it owed 38 million Ugandan shillings ($11,000) in licensing fees. However the station’s owner, Nulu Byamukama, said he had paid the outstanding fees in full following the suspension of the station’s license.

27 January: Four journalists, including Ronald Nahebwa, Benon Tugumisirize, Madina Nalwanga appeared in court to answer defamation charge. However, Ephraim Ntaganda, one of the prosecution witnesses revealed that he never complained to police about the journalists. Media reports said Ntaganda, who was cross-examined by four lawyers, told the court that he did not lodge a complaint against the four journalists but rather  against Juma Ssegawa Tamale, a city business man with whom they have a land dispute.

Sunday 31: Benon Kanamwanje, a journalist for the Red Pepper publications, was on attacked by the supporters of the Mukono Municipality contestant for the Democratic Party, Betty Nambooze. The supporters, led by the Mukono Municipality Youth Councilor, Godffrey Kisawuzi, accused Kanamwanje of biased reporting.