The Beleaguered African Media  | American Journalism Review
From AJR,   September 1999

The Beleaguered African Media   

By Unknown

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ANGOLA: Due to an endless war that has killed more than half a million and devastated the economy, the country's journalists are under constant threat of death as they attempt to strengthen their profession and provide uncensored information. Since 1994, five journalists have been murdered in Angola--all of them known for their critical reporting on President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' government.

BURUNDI: Military dictator Maj. Pierre Buyoya's regime has waged a full-scale attack on the country's journalists, using the intelligence service as a weapon. Fear of reprisal has forced many journalists to practice self-censorship, and security risks inhibit reporting from conflict areas.

LIBERIA: State security agents and police continue to violate journalists' rights with impunity. In January 1998, police barred the only operating printing facility in Monrovia from publishing the independent newspaper Heritage, which a week earlier printed an article critical of President Charles Taylor's government.

CAMEROOON: Pius Njawe--editor of the weekly Le Messager and a 1991 recipient of CPJ's International Press Freedom Award--is the country's most beleaguered journalist. Since 1993, his publications have been banned and seized 13 times, and Njawe has been arrested repeatedly. The publication director of the magazine Le Jeune Detective was arrested in 1998 for a story that questioned the involvement of the minister of economy and finance in embezzlement of public funds.

ETHIOPIA: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is listed among CPJ's 10 worst offenders of press freedom, and Ethiopia once again led Africa with the highest number of journalists, a total of 16, in prison. In February 1998, Abay Hailu, editor of Wolafen, died after prison authorities denied him medical treatment for a serious illness.

RWANDA: Wilson Ndayambadje, a reporter for Rwandan National Radio and Television, was beaten to death by a government soldier in January 1998. Four months later, Emmanuel Munyemanzi, head of production at National Television, disappeared on his way home from work after the director of the Rwandan Information Office had accused him of sabotage for a production error that occurred during a political debate.

SIERRA LEONE: The Revolutionary United Front, a rebel faction, has said it will “deal with” certain journalists if they are caught, leaving independent journalists at risk from both President Ahmed Kabbah's government and armed insurgents. On December 31, Sylvester Rogers, a BBC correspondent, was threatened by a rebel commander for his “biased” reporting. Rogers also was arrested by the government for similar reasons. [In January 1999, seven journalists were killed by the RUF and four remain missing.]

SOUTH AFRICIA: In a number of instances, the government has reversed itself on harsh actions against journalists. Authorities decided not to deport Zimbabwe-born Newton Kanhema, an investigative reporter with the Sunday Independent and a recipient of a Cable News Network African Journalist of the Year award. Officials apologized for the beating of a reporter for the newspaper Cape Argus that caused him to lose sight in his left eye, and suspended police officers accused of the assault.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (FORMALLY ZAIRE): The country's press has faced accusations of subversion and espionage ever since Laurent-Désiré Kabila seized power in May 1997. More than 71 journalists have been detained without charge, attacked or harassed, and 1998 saw a record-breaking number of incidents of press freedom violations, with no end to the crisis in sight.

ZAMBIA: A crackdown on the press continues, with Zambia holding the record for more pending criminal defamation cases and other legal actions against journalists than any other country in Africa. Fred M'membe, editor in chief of the Post newspaper, and his staff continued to be singled out for lawsuits and arrests. M'membe was a 1995 recipient of CPJ's International Press Freedom Award.

ZIMBABWE: Since the country became independent in 1980, President Robert Mugabe has maintained a de facto one-party state through the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, whose electoral victories have been bolstered by self-serving campaign laws, crackdowns on the opposition and state-run media that overshadow the independent press. The government controls all broadcasting and a number of daily newspapers and influences state-owned publications by reviewing editorial policies and appointments. [In January 1999, a top editor and reporter were tortured in an unsuccessful attempt to learn the identity of their sources for a story about an attempted coup.]



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