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Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa

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ARTICLE 19

30 Dec 2012

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This monthly newsletter provides a snapshot of the status of Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa. It was compiled by ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa with the assistance of its partners in the respective countries. Funding support has been provided by European Union (EU), however the content of the newsletter does not reflect the opinion of the EU.

 RWANDA

12/11/2012: Rwandan journalist sentenced to one year in jail

 The editor of Umusingi newspaper, Stanley Gatera, was sentenced one-year in jail and fined 30,000 Rwanda Francs ($50 USD) by the Gasabo Intermediate Court in the capital Kigali for inciting divisionism and gender discrimination in an opinion column he published in his newspaper in June 2012. The prosecutor said in court that the article breached the country’s laws on referring to ethnic identities. Gatera appealed the sentence.

BURUNDI

8/11/2012: Sentenced journalist’s appeal finally heard

A journalist who was jailed for life over terrorism charges has launched an appeal. The Court of Appeal of Gitega Centre is hearing the appeal by Hassan Ruvakuki, a Bonesha FM journalist and correspondent for the Swahili service Radio France. On 27 June 2012, the reporter was charged with “terrorist acts” after he interviewed the leader of Forces for the Restoration of Democracy (FRD), a rebel group based in neighbouring Tanzania which carried out a deadly attack in the eastern town of Cankuzo in Burundi. After reporting on the attack, the prosecutor accused him of publicising the incident and of being an accomplice to the rebels.

SOMALIA

6/11/2012: New Somaliland law may threaten freedom of expression

ARTICLE 19’s partner organisation, Somaliland Journalist Association (SOLJA) notes with concern that the recently passed National Intelligence Agency law may have a negative impact on Somaliland's independent media. In particular, they cited Article 7 paragraph 11, which they say gives the National Intelligence Agency the right to censor media. SOLJA pointed out this provision is against Articles 25 and 32 of Somaliland National Constitution and Somaliland Press Law No. 27/2004 which guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

9/11/2012: Somalia President Pledges for End of Impunity

Somali president Hussan Sheikh Mohammed held a meeting with the country’s media community at which he promised to end impunity related to the killings of journalists. During the meeting, the president said that freedom of expression is a right enshrined in the Somali constitution and his government was determined to uphold it. He promised that a taskforce would be set up to investigate attacks against journalists and that perpetrators will be brought to justice.

21/11/2012: BBC reporter arrested in Mogadishu

BBC reporter, Ibrahim Mohamed Adan was arrested by Somali security forces for allegedly reporting false news about Somalia’s military court. The Military Court chair Liban Ali Yarow confirmed that Adan was arrested for publishing “false news” early this month. He was later released.

 UGANDA

01/10/2012: Police Injure a Vision Group journalist

Kizza Martin, a journalist with government-owned Bukedde Television was attacked by a policeman whilst covering protest in Kampala, Uganda. Martin was hit over the head by the police officer in what is thought to be a targeted attack. The incident happened whilst police were dispersing supporters of the City’s Lord Mayor Ssalongo Elias Lukwago who together with the city councilors, were protesting against the governance of the Executive Director of Kampala Capital City Authority, Jennifer Musisi. A good Samaritan rushed Martin to a nearby clinic where he received first aid treatment.

28/11/2012: Court Dismisses Case against Journalist

Perezi Rumanzi, a freelance reporter with the Daily Monitor in Ntungamo District in Western Uganda, has been acquitted of incitement to violence charges. The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Richard Buteera, told the court that the State had lost interest in the case. On 29 April 2012 a Special Forces Group (SFG) guarding the first Lady Janet Museveni at Kyamate Cathedral, arrested Rumanzi for allegedly compromising the security of the First Lady by interfering with their movement. Rumanzi was covering the installation of the members of South Ankole Diocese Synod at St. Mathew Cathedral Kyamate in Ntungamo district where Mrs. Museveni was the chief guest.

 ETHIOPIA

7/11/2012: Court statement of jailed journalist confiscated

It has been reported that prison guards confiscated a defence statement that a jailed journalist was due to present to a court during the appeal of his case. Eskinder Nega was sentenced to 18 years in prison in July 2012 under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009. He had used his online column to voice criticism of the government. Nega was found guilty of six counts including conspiracy to dismantle the constitutional order, recruitment and training for terror acts and aiding Ethiopia’s arch rival Eritrea, as well as belonging to a terrorism group, ‘Ginbo 7’ that aimed at disrupting security. Nega is representing himself in the appeal after his lawyers were intimidated and feared to continue representing him. According to Article 19 partners, the guard who brought him from jail admitted confiscating Eskinder’s statement, saying it had to be verified and approved by higher officials before he could read it in court.