A month in the life of journalists in Eastern Africa
Article 19 Eastern Africa issues a monthly bulletin on the status of freedom of expression in the region. This is the slightly shortened January 2016 edition:
28 January: Foreign journalist Jean-Philippe Remy and photojournalist Philip Edward Moore, while on assignment for French daily newspaper Le Monde in the capital city Bujumbura, were arrested and detained by police. Pressure from international human rights and media groups including from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius meant that the journalists were released the next day.
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.
6 January: Denis Galava, Special Projects Editor at Nation Media Group, was suspended for an editorial deemed critical of the government. 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 candidate for government on social media. He was then detained at the police station.
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.
19 January: Cyprian Nyakundi, was arrested and detained for 24 hours 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 Kenya Defence Force 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: 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 officials and 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 interrogated 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.
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.
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.
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. 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 the 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.
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”.
15 January: The government announced that journalists without a university qualification will be barred from covering Parliament. 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.
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 was 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.
20 January: Endigyito FM ceased broadcasting after the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) revoked the station’s licence, and confiscated its broadcasting equipment only a day after the station aired an interview with opposition presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi. Media reports indicated that the UCC director initially said the station’s licence was suspended because it owed 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 licence.
This article is an adaptation of a piece that originally appeared in the AFRICAN FREE PRESS, a MISA project supported by DW AKADEMIE.