ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa today published its 2020 Annual report which highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on freedom of expression in the region during the year 2020.
Freedom of expression faced the most challenging times since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which affected the whole world, including the African continent.
Most countries in the region used the pandemic to silence and infringe the rights to expression and assembly, leading to the majority of citizens transition to online protests. Authorities also used the pandemic to suppress access to information and interfere with the online rights of groups and individuals by shutting down the internet. This was particularly evident in countries where elections were held, such as Burundi, Somalia and Tanzania.
In 2020, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia and Tanzania were scheduled to have elections. They took place in Burundi, Somalia and Tanzania, but were marred by violence and irregularities. Authorities further placed restrictions on the international community seeking to observe elections, particularly in Burundi. Despite this, people turned out in their numbers to cast votes for their preferred candidates. In contrast, authorities in Ethiopia postponed the country’s first democratic general elections to 2021 citing the pandemic.
The media in the region also had a very difficult time during this period as the Eastern African states continued to create a near to impossible environment for journalists and the media. Security forces and the police threatened, harassed and detained journalists due to their work in relation to the pandemic. In Tanzania, some media houses lost their licences for being critical of the government of the day or for reporting on the pandemic.
Civil society organisations were not spared as authorities in the region continued the practice of imposing restrictions that hindered their work on human rights. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) faced restrictions such as tough registration requirements, state interference in operation and restrictions in funding.
Read the full report: EAF Annual Report 2020-Interactive-dps
Read the mobile-friendly version: EAF Annual Report 2020-Interactive-single
For more information, please contact:
Mugambi Kiai – Regional Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa: [email protected]