This Week in Africa: 20 – 25 October, 2014

This Week in Africa

The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) continues to support its members in their efforts to address freedom of expression challenges on the African continent, by projecting issues that members have reported on, which are likely to promote or hinder freedom of expression. In the week of 20 – 25 October, 2014 edition of THIS WEEK IN AFRICA, AFEX highlights the reports of two members in Central and Southern Africa – the Journaliste en Danger (JED) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – Journaliste en Danger (JED) has demanded an urgent investigation into an armed attack suffered by Philemon Gira, reporter and cameraman for the Radio and Télévision Nationale Congolaise (RTNC). JED reports that Gira was seriously wounded, following three bullets fired at him by a group of armed men. The journalist, who was said to have been bleeding profusely, was rescued by passers-by who took him to a hospital where he was admitted at the Intensive Care Unit. AFEX joins JED in condemning the attack on the innocent journalist and in calling on the authorities in the DRC to, as a matter of urgency, institute investigations into the case to bring the perpetrators to book. AFEX further joins hands with JED to appeal to authorities to put an end to attacks on journalists and to ensure the safety of journalists is guaranteed in that country.

Botswana – MISA convened a mission to observe the conduct of the media and electoral bodies during the Botswana 2014 parliamentary and local government elections. Based on its findings, MISA commended the Botswana media for “an exceptional effort to facilitate voter education and expand the reach of its reporting.” MISA, however, observed an uneven reportage towards the ruling party and urged the public service media to be fair in its coverage and reportage. MISA also expressed concern about the application of sedition laws against journalists which had led to the arrest of the editor of Sunday Standard, Outsa Mokone, and the exile of reporter Edgar Tsimane who had filed the story. MISA made some recommendations to the Government of Botswana which include: a call on the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Botswana to, subsequently, work with the media to intensify voter education in order to avert some challenges experienced by voters; a call on the Government to amend the Botswana Communications Regulatory (BOCRA) Act of 2013 to conform to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (2002) and the African Charter on Broadcasting (2001); the need for an equitable distribution of air time during elections; the need to amend the BOCRA Act 2013 to license community radio stations to facilitate communication between communities and their policy makers; the enactment of an access to information law; the need to set up training programmes for media professionals to promote ethical conduct, accurate, fair and balanced coverage of election news and the call on the media to familiarise themselves with the ethical and professional principles outlined in the Guidelines in Media Coverage of Elections in the region. AFEX commends MISA for the good work and particularly joins MISA in urging the Government of Botswana to implement the recommendations as way of further boosting democracy in that country. AFEX also adds its voice to MISA’s in condemning the arrest of Outsa Mokone and the exile of Edgar Tsimane and calls on the government to ensure the safety of journalists and to guarantee freedom of expression.

Malawi – MISA Malawi issued an alert on the arrest of a journalist, Archibald Kasakura. MISA Malawi expressed its shock at the arrest and subsequent detention of the journalist by the Police for allegedly “obstructing a police officer on duty.” According to MISA Malawi, as confirmed by Kasakura, the police beat him up and detained him for taking pictures of an altercation involving Blantyre City Assembly officials and vendors. It is refreshing to learn that the Malawi Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture, Kondwani Nankhumwa, has condemned the beating of the journalist, promising the perpetrators will face the full extent of the law. AFEX joins MISA Malawi and other freedom of expression stakeholders in welcoming the move by the Malawi Government fight impunity. As said by the Minister in his statement, “There is nothing that justifies the victimisation of journalists in a civilised society.” AFEX further calls on authorities to continue to ensure that journalists are safe and that they discharge their duties without any harassment.

Zimbabwe – MISA Zimbabwe reported on two issues: recent attacks on and threats against the privately owned media and an assault of an online reporter. MISA Zimbabwe noted with grave concern recent attacks on and threats against the privately owned media by Zanu PF and government officials, including the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, which pose serious risk to the safety and security of journalists. According to MISA Zimbabwe, comments made by the First Lady and other government officials during rallies sought to put the lives of journalists working for the Daily News at risk. Also, the assault and detention of Tapiwa  Zivira, an online reporter with News Day by police in Harare while recording video footage of an ongoing blitz against touts operating in the central business town, as noted by MISA Zimbabwe, is of concern to all promoters of media freedom and freedom of expression. According to the report, Zivira, who sustained multiple injuries, was detained and interrogated at the Harare Central Police Station before being released without charges. The police, who deleted the video footage from his camera, accused Newsday of reporting negatively on their operations. AFEX joins MISA Zimbabwe in condemning the threats and assaults on and attacks against journalists. AFEX recalls that journalists in Zimbabwe have been under attacks for some years now and calls on authorities to respect the constitutional mandate of journalists and to see journalists as partners to advance democracy in that country.