Jour­nal­ism un­der at­tack in Africa

Mail & Guardian - - Comment & Analysis -

The for­mer Mail & Guardian ed­i­tor, An­gela Quin­tal, and Muthoki Mumo, formerly of Kenya’s Daily Na­tion, were de­tained overnight in Tan­za­nia on Wed­nes­day. They were vis­it­ing that coun­try as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists (CPJ). The CPJ fights for the rights of jour­nal­ists around the world. In re­cent years, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has had to do an in­creas­ing amount of ad­vo­cacy in sup­port of Tan­za­nian jour­nal­ists, who are fac­ing un­prece­dented lev­els of threats, ha­rass­ment and re­pres­sion from their own gov­ern­ment.

This week, Quin­tal and Mumo ex­pe­ri­enced that ha­rass­ment first-hand. Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials de­scended on their ho­tel in Dar es Salaam, con­fis­cated their pass­ports and hauled them off to a de­ten­tion cen­tre. They were only re­leased the next day, af­ter an ur­gent in­ter­ven­tion by South Africa’s depart­ment of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and co-op­er­a­tion.

It is im­pos­si­ble to view their de­ten­tion as any­thing other than a brazen at­tack on press free­dom and free­dom of speech. Not only is the Tan­za­nian gov­ern­ment go­ing af­ter in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ists in their own coun­try, they are now also tar­get­ing the very in­sti­tu­tions es­tab­lished to pro­tect those jour­nal­ists.

Quin­tal, Mumo and the CPJ are un­likely to be cowed. None­the­less, the in­ci­dent will re­ver­ber­ate through­out news­rooms across the con­ti­nent as yet an­other ex­am­ple of the wors­en­ing con­di­tions in which jour­nal­ists are be­ing forced to work.

As such in­ci­dents go, what hap­pened to Quin­tal and Mumo is rel­a­tively mi­nor. They were not hurt, as far as we know, and were swiftly re­leased. Oth­ers have ex­pe­ri­enced far worse.

An il­lus­tra­tive sam­ple of in­ci­dents from just the past few months:

Ab­dul­lahi Mire Hashi, a ra­dio jour­nal­ist from So­ma­lia, was gunned down by un­known as­sailants. Kenyan news­pa­per jour­nal­ist Bar­rack Oduor was as­saulted dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a prom­i­nent politi­cian, and his source was killed. Thar­cisse Zon­gia, ed­i­tor-in-chief of the satir­i­cal weekly Grognon, was con­victed of crim­i­nal defama­tion and sen­tenced in ab­sen­tia to one year in prison. Three Bu­run­dian jour­nal­ists with the pri­vate sta­tion Ra­dio Cul­ture were at­tacked by po­lice and pre­vented from cov­er­ing a protest. La Nou­velle Tri­bune, a pri­vate daily in Benin, was sus­pended af­ter re­port­ing crit­i­cally on the gov­ern­ment. The of­fices of Nige­rian ra­dio sta­tion Fresh FM were par­tially bull­dozed on the or­ders of the Oyo state gov­ern­ment af­ter crit­i­cal re­port­ing.

To­gether, these in­ci­dents, along with countless oth­ers that do not make the head­lines, rep­re­sent a se­ri­ous as­sault on the in­sti­tu­tion of jour­nal­ism on the African con­ti­nent.

Jour­nal­ists will not go down with­out a fight, how­ever. Or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the CPJ, and in­di­vid­u­als such as Quin­tal and Mumo, are do­ing their part to raise aware­ness when the rights of jour­nal­ists are abused. But the best de­fence of all is jour­nal­ism it­self. Even as it be­comes ever more dif­fi­cult to do so, we re­main com­mit­ted to speak­ing truth to power; to hold­ing gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions and in­di­vid­u­als to ac­count; to cred­i­ble, re­spon­si­ble, com­pre­hen­sive, fact-based re­port­ing on our coun­tries and our con­ti­nent. In the face of grow­ing re­pres­sion, only the truth will set us free.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.