Wednesday, 26 December 2007
The Eastern Africa sub-region witnessed a dramatic increase of brutality against journalists and other media workers in 2007. With ten media persons murdered since the beginning of the year, the region has become one of the most dangerous regions on the globe for journalists and the most difficult and dangerous in Africa. Eight media persons and two journalists were killed this year in Somalia and Eritrea alone.
Based on EAJA´s own release, this article has been edited for republication here by HRH F / Niels Jacob Harbitz.
The Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA), a sub-regional organisation of journalists´ trade unions and associations, is deeply concerned over the worsening situation of freedom of the press and safety of journalists in the sub-region. -The failure to punish the perpetrators and architects of these killings encourage the happening of new killings, said Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA).
The Somali conflict is a cause of serious concern for press freedom community and is greatest press freedom challenge in Africa. All sides of the conflict have committed violations and abuses against freedoms and rights of Somali journalists and media. EAJA calls on all sides to ensure that journalists and the media are allowed to report freely and fearlessly. -Somali journalists face one of the most hazardous operating environments in the world, EAJA said. Besides killings, journalists and other media workers are increasingly subject to intimidation and physical attacks. More than hundred media persons were arrested, threatened or attacked as a result of their media work, according to EAJA Members.
Eritrea is still the country of the sub-region with the largest number of journalists in top-security prisons. The Eastern Africa Journalists Association expresses its concern over this situation, and asks the Eritrean Government to free them. However, the unlawful and abusive use of public power to intimidate journalists has occurred in several countries in the sub-region. EAJA is tremendously concerned that these acts may be used to stifle freedom of expression and of the press. In many countries of Eastern Africa there is sophisticated governmental pressure on journalists and news media organisations to limit criticism of public authorities. In Uganda, for instance, independent journalists face sedition charges in relation to specific critical reports.
EAJA urges governments in Eastern Africa to be transparent and open to criticism. -Criticism is an essential part of the political process and governments should become familiarized to it, it said. In 2007 alone, more than 200 journalists have fled from their home countries, mostly from Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea. The leadership of Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association are all in exile as they fear for their life. At least seven journalists are believed to be in jail in Ethiopia. In Burundi, six journalists, who were released from jail early this year, are undergoing judiciary harassment, because they were not found guilty after more than one month and half in jail, but the Burundian judge is proceeding to call them back to the court. They are accused of a story about a military coup.
-Harassment and intimidation of journalists are violations of fundamental human rights and Burundian journalists must be allowed to exercise their freedom of expression without fear, Eastern Africa Journalists Association said. The Eastern Africa Journalists Association is greatly concerned over the detention of Sudanese Journalist Sami Al-Hajj, Aljazeera cameraman, arrested by US forces in 2001 and taken to Guantanamo Bay. He remains there to this day. EAJA joins organizations of human rights, civil society and the Sudanese Journalists Union, and strongly call for his immediate release. The Eastern Africa Journalists Association calls for an investigation into all killings, threats and other attacks against journalists and other media workers. -Governments must fulfil their obligation to respect the right to freedom of opinion and expression and to ensure the safety and security of journalists, EAJA declared.
Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) is a Djibouti-based, independent, Sub-Regional Association of Journalists that unites Journalists´ Unions and Associations of Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda to preserve and promote freedom of expression and of the press, and to protect and promote the rights and interests of journalists and other media workers.
B.P. 4099, Djibouti
Republic of Djibouti
Telephone: +253 35 70 38