Bulletin: Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa

Bulletin: Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa - Civic Space

At the printing press of Newsline, staff look at their most recent edition. Charles Kabonero (managing director) and his colleagues had to flee to Uganda after their independent weekly Umuseso newspaper was banned in their native country. Now working in exile in Kampala, Charles and his colleagues started a new newspaper Newsline.

This quarterly bulletin provides a snapshot of the status of Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa. It is compiled by ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa with the assistance of its partners in the respective countries


October 24: Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye revoked the registration of Burundian Union of Journalists and five other leading civil society groups for unknown reasons. According to media reports the reasons for the suspension of the journalist’s union and the banning of civil society organisations were not immediately established. Article19 Eastern Africa is very concerned about the worsening situation for the media and human rights groups in Burundi and calls on Burundian authorities to rescind its decision and allow media and civil society groups to resume and operate freely for the country’s stability and democracy.

October 23: International Women’s Media fellow, Julia Steers, her fixer Gildas Yihundimpundu, and their driver Sinahagera Pascal were arrested and detained by Burundian security forces while on a news reporting mission in the Mutakura suburb of Bujumbura, according to media reports.

The US Embassy in Burundi intervened and Steers, an American citizen, was released soon while her other colleagues, Yihundimpundu, who contributes for the BBC, and their driver, Sinahagera, were held overnight at the headquarters of Burundi’s National Intelligence Service (SNR) and released the following day in the evening, according a local journalist who spoke with Article19 Eastern Africa office, in Nairobi.

October 2: Salvador Nahimana, a radio journalist with Radio Maria, a global station that broadcasts news and missionary statements was arrested and detained by Burundi’s national intelligence service (SNR). Nahimana was detained by police and later transferred to the custody of the intelligence service, a Burundian journalist told Article19 on the phone. According to this reporter Nahimana was arrested in Bujumbura, alongside nine others for allegedly participating in an illegal meeting which according to the security agents undermined state security.

August 18: Gisa Steve Irakoze, a reporter for the independent Radio Buja was arrested and detained by Burundian authorities. Irakoze was arrested in the town of Gatumba, located on the outskirts of Bujumbura, and transferred the following day by the National Intelligence Service, reported the Journalist’s union. Irakoze was released without charge on 25 August, according to Burindian National Union of Journalists.


October 4: Natnail Feleke of Zone 9 bloggers was arrested and detained by Ethiopian Security forces for making “seditious remarks” in a restaurant while criticising security forces for their excessive use of force to disperse protest, according to media reports. The crackdown on the media escalated in recent months following massive countrywide protests that led the government to declare a state of emergency. Feleke was released on 7 October, according to an exiled Ethiopian journalist in Nairobi.

October 1: Seyoum Teshome, a prolific blogger and a lecturer at Ambo University was arrested from his home by Ethiopian authorities. Police arrested Teshome, searched his house and confiscated his computer, according to media reports and social media posts. Efforts by Article19 through local partnership in Ethiopia to know what charge Teshome faced were not successful as local sources including journalists were not able to establish which charge Teshome would face.

August 8: Thomas Adair and Fred de Sam Lazaro of a US based Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and Africa News Agency (ANA) correspondent Hadra Ahmed were arrested and detained by Ethiopian police while they were reporting on the ravaging effects of drought in the country. Police confiscated their passports and their equipment and offered no reason for their detention. The team was taken back to Addis Ababa the next day under police escort, interrogated for a further six hours and then released with a warning not to report outside the capital, a statement from the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Ethiopia said.


October 19: Stellar Murumba, the Nation Media Group writer for Business Daily who covered the alleged loss of 5 billion Kemya Shillings at Afya House, was threatened by Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Dr Nicholas Muragari when she asked him about the audit queries. According to audio conversation obtained by Article19, Dr Muraguri is heard telling the journalist she had no knowledge of government operations. Dr Muragur is heard saying the government is capable of snooping into her communication and hacking into her bank account if need be. This was in reference to warn her from carrying on with her story about the alleged loss on 5 billion Kenya Shillings in the Ministry of Health.

October 13: Emmanuel Masha, a senior journalist with Kenya News Agency was assaulted by Administration Police officers attached to the office of the Tana River County Governor Hussein Dado. Masha was filming contractors who had stormed the county’s finance department demanding their pay for some work they allegedly was commissioned by the governor’s office. Masha told Article19 that two police officers descended on him when they realised he was filming the exchanges between contractors of a certain company and county officials over delayed payments. The AP officers grabbed Masha’s camera but the contractors intervened warning the officers against interfering with the media covering their issue.

September 27: Duncan Wanga, a cameraman for K24 TV station  was assaulted and his camera damaged by Uasin Gishu County Deputy Officer Commanding Station (OCS) Pius Misikhu when he was covering protest by residents in the town. Wanga told Article19 he did not understand why the officer acted that way. Following Wanga’s incident journalists in the region took to the streets to protest against what they termed increasing harassment by police officers. More than 50 journalists drawn from various media houses and human rights activists marched the streets carrying placards and finally went to the County Police Commander Joseph Nyaga, where they handed him a petition. They also raised concerns over threats and intimidation against their colleagues by some politicians in the region ahead of the general election slated for August 2017.

September 4: Julius Kariithi of Royal Media Services and James Mburu of Nation Media Group were beaten and seriously injured by security guards from Kakuzi company limited, in Gatanga, Murang’a. Kiriithi and Mburu together with their other colleagues had gone to report on a protest in which Gatitu Secondary School students and parents accused Kakuzi company of taking over a piece of land belonging to the school. During the fracas school children were also injured after being assaulted by the guards.

The guards manning the entrance reportedly denied the journalists access into the farm, beat them up with clubs and damaged their equipment. According to Kariithi, when they introduced themselves as reporters, the security guards descended on them without explanation.

September 7: Dennis Otieno, a freelance photographer journalist was killed by unknown assailants at his Kibomet home in Kitale, Trans Nzoia County. Otieno was shot dead immediately after three unknown people invaded his home at about 11pm, according to his wife and area police officials. According to the deceased’s wife attackers stormed their compound while she was fetching water outside the house and forced her to get inside. The unknown attackers demanded certain photos from his camera before shooting him dead. While trying to defend himself, they shot twice but missed and the third shot killed him, the widow said. His electronics, including a camera, and an unknown amount of money were taken away from the house.


October 17: Unknown assailants broke into the premises of the Observer Newspaper at Plot 1Tagore Crescent, Kamwokya in Kampala and made away with vital equipment and information. The motive of the break in was not immediately established. The security guard on duty was missing, but his gun was recovered at the premises.

October 2: Five media groups, the Observer, Red Pepper, Daily Monitor, Uganda Radio Network and the New Vision were summoned to appear before a Parliamentary Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline over alleged negative publicity by the five media houses. New Vision declined to appear before the committee arguing that since Parliament was the complainant, it could not be the one to try the media houses. Article19’s Ugandan partner organisations said Parliament had issued fresh summons against the five media houses to appear again.

September 14: Benon Tugumisiirize, formerly of Red Pepper newspaper was arrested as he left Buganda Road Magistrates court where he had gone to attend his trial on criminal defamation, according to media reports and rights group in Uganda. Benon was interrogated for over five hours and was compelled to write a statement before being released without charge. Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda reported that the head of the Media Crime Unit, Emmanuel Mbonimpa, had carried out inquiries over a story that had appeared in Red Pepper newspaper.

September 13: Fred Mukasa Kiku, a journalist with Pearl FM radio and talk show host was summoned by the Police’s Media Crime Unit and interrogated over a talk show he hosted on 15 July 2016. During the talk show Kiku allegedly allowed his guest, Mzee Bwanika, to make defamatory statements against the Managing Director of UMEME. According to media reports two more journalists have been interrogated by the Crime Investigations and Intelligence Department of the Uganda police over their work.

August 31: Madiinah Ssebyala, of Bukedde Paper was assaulted by Kasagga Swaibu who threatened her with further attacks if she continued to cover a land case in which Swaibu accuses Kenneth Mukiibi of selling him land and failing to offer the land title, according to media reports and a rights group report. Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda said Ssebyala was rescued by commercial cyclists (boda boda) who had parked near the court and witnessed the incident.

August 29: Teba Arukol, a freelance journalist, was summoned in Moroto District; North Eastern Uganda by police officers over an alleged Facebook post about the Karamajong cultural leaders. According to media reports Arukol reported at Moroto Central Police Station, where he was told they summoned him about the statement he posted on his Facebook page regarding Karamoja cultural leaders, who went to Kenya to attend the Turkana Cultural and Tourism event yet they could not attend a similar event locally. The journalist recorded a statement and was released without charge. Police asked for photocopies of his passport and national identity card before releasing him, media reports indicated.


October 15: Abdi Aden Guled, an editor with Xog Ogaal newspaper was arrested and the publication’s offices closed down by Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency, accord to the Associated Press and Somali based journalists union. The security agents raided the newspaper and confiscated equipment, according to Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

September 27: Abdiaziz Ali, a morning news host show journalist for the privately run Radio Shabelle was fatally shot dead by gunmen on motorbikes, according to media reports. Shabelle Media Network chairman Abdimalik Yusuf Mohamud was quoted in media reports saying Abdiaziz was on his way to visit his parents when he was killed. The motive behind Abdiaziz’s killing was not immediately established. Abdiaziz’s murder follows another killing in June this year, when Sagal Salad Osman, who worked for state-run Radio Mogadishu, was gunned down as she left her university campus.

September 25: Ahmed Mouse Sakaaro who runs an independent Rakaadnews was arrested at Sakaaro in the Eastern town of Buroa by police officers, media reported. Human Rights Centre, a Somali based advocacy group, said in a statement that Ahmed’s arrest was linked to video posted online condemning a declaration by Minister for the Presidency Mahmoud Hashi Abdi, who allegedly said he would rid Somaliland of what he called “pirate journalists”.

South Sudan

September 14: Nation Mirror newspaper was shut down without explanation by South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS). The paper remained closed despite several calls on the country’s authorities by international human rights organisations to reopen the paper. Media reports indicate the closure might have been sanctioned by the coverage of a report by a US-based group which had alleged misuse of state funds by the nation’s leaders. In July 2016, agents of the NSS shut down the Juba Monitor newspaper for two days; arrested and detained the paper’s Editor, Alfred Taban, for two weeks following an article he wrote which was deemed critical of the government. Article19 appeals to the NSS to stop media intimidation and harassment and allow journalists and media house to work freely.


August 29: Two privately owned stations Radio Five and Magic FM were shut down by Tanzanian Information Minister Nape Nnauye. According to the minister, the two stations broadcast “seditious” material that could incite the public and disturb the peace. The Information Minister alleged that Magic FM aired content that had the potential to cause a breakdown in law and order on its 17 August morning show called Morning Magic, and that Radio Five broadcasted seditious content on its evening program called Matukio.