Newsletter: Freedom of Expression in Eastern Africa

Newsletter: 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.

June/July 2016

This monthly 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.


June 5: Egide Ndayisenga, Radio Bonesha journalist was arrested by authorities and held arbitrarily for two days without charge. Media reports said Ndayisenga was arrested in the northern province of Cibitoke for allegedly providing information to Burundian journalists in exile outside the country. The authorities also claimed that his movements in the province were suspicious.

June 17: Julien Barinzigo, a journalist who working for theOximity News website was arrested and detained by plainclothesmen in Cibitoke district, north of Bujumbura for allegedly insulting the president and undermining internal state security. Barinzigo has since been brought before a judge twice. A request for his release by his lawyers had not been examined because, according to the judges, Bujumbura’s courts are in the process of being reorganized.

July 22: Jean Bigirimana, who previously worked for a pro-government Radio Rema FM and later for Infos Grands Lacs and Iwacu, was reportedly arrested by the provincial branch of the National Intelligence Service (Service National des Renseignements – SNR) and taken to unknown place. Media reports said he was arrested when he left his home in the capital Bujumbura around lunch time on July 22 for Bugarama, after receiving a phone call from a source in the country’s national intelligence service. Further reports said after family heard he had been arrested, they went to the scene of the arrest, and they were told that he had been carried away by members of the SNR. Bigirimana’s wife, Godeberte Hakizimana posted on SOS Médias Burundi website appealing to the authorities to find her husband whom she described as being “in great danger”.


June 15: Siefu Fantahun, a radio and TV host was arrested by local police and put in jail. Fantahun, who has worked in Ethiopia’s entertainment media for more than 10 years, was arrested for reporting about the recent uprising in the Oromia region, the largest region in the country. Local reports said Fantahun was picked up for miss informing the public about the Oromo protest that has been going on since 2014.

June 19: Ethiopian authorities arrested Mukhtar Nuh Ibrahim of Horn Cable TV and four other journalists who released but detained Nuh Ibrahim. ARTICLE 19 partner organisations in Ethiopia said Ethiopian police arrested the journalists after luring them to false press conference in Wajale, a town located on the border of Somaliland and Ethiopia. The reasons for their arrest were not immediately clear.


June 9: Cyprian Nyakundi, a blogger was sued by National Bank of Kenya (NBK) and subsequently given interim injunction restraining him or any other contributors to his blog from writing anything about the bank. The bank through an advertisement in the daily newspapers barred Nyakundi from publishing any statements defamatory of the bank, its shareholders, directors and or employees in any nature, form and manner whatsoever on his blog, his twitter handle or any other of his social media accounts Nyakundi has in the last two years been sued numerous time by both individuals and corporate groups for defamation.

June 14: Several journalists from the Star newspaper were warned by Moses Kuria, a pro-government politician, against covering his functions after news of his alleged call for assassination of the main political opposition Raila Odinga. The Gatundu South MP was capture on a video allegedly calling for the opposition chief’s assassination for being a threat to Kenya. Kuria later claimed the newspaper was being used to fight the government hence should not cover his political events.

June 14: Jackson Njeru and Jackline Ogutu popularly known as Nyako Ber were jailed for three months each for contempt of court by a Nairobi Magistrate.  The two were jailed for being administrators of a Facebook account known as Buyer Beware. The page publishes information that warns the public about defective or substandard goods or service. Their crime was that being group administrators, they did not bring down a post from a member of the group that mentioned prominent lawyer Cecil Miller, who has sued them in various courts in Nairobi, Kwale and Mombasa. The lawyer had earlier gotten injunction against the two for mentioning his name anywhere online pending the determination of the cases he has against them. Miller had sued Njeru and Ogutu in several magistrate courts, first using the Section 29 of the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Act 2013, for misusing licensed telecommunications equipment (Facebook) but when the section was declared unconstitutional on April 19 he switched to Section 184 of the Penal Code which criminalizes defamation content.

June 15: Paul Letiwa, a journalist with Daily Nation received threatening messages from unknown person barely two weeks after being posted by his company in Samburu County. Mr. Letiwa, who had worked for the company in Nairobi as a correspondent for five years, said he started receiving threats through his phone after he published a story on misuse of public funds by the Samburu County government. Some county officials dismissed the story, saying it “it lacked facts”. One of the messages from an anonymous person warned the writer against publishing negative stories about the county.  The number the sender used to threaten him is not registered and was switched off immediately.

July 20: Moses Masinde, a journalist with MediaMax group was seriously beaten and injured during a political rally held in Port Victoria, Budalang’i constituency by opposition leader Raila Odinga. Masinde was accosted by rowdy youths while recording anti-Raila demonstrations that were taking place at the market. Police came to his rescue and rushed him to Port Victoria Police Station. His camera was vandalized and tape snatched during the chaos.


June 22: Sadati Waligo, a journalist attached to Kamunye, a sister tabloid of Red Pepper newspaper was remanded to Kakondo prison in Lyantonde district for alleged criminal libel. Waligo appeared before Grade One Magistrate Tadeo Muyinda and was charged for publishing a defamatory story in Kamunye and also posting on his social media, facebook account on January 17 with intent to injure the reputation of Lyantonde Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Sulaiman Tiguragara Matojo. The story indicated that Matojo was involved in the theft of cows from the late minister Eriya Kategaya’s farm in Buyaga village, Mpumudde sub-county.

June 29: Two journalists, Abubaker Lubowa of the Daily Monitor and Mutebi Robert of Salt Media were assaulted by police officers at Spear Motors in Kampala while covering the arrest of Ingrid Turinawe, the secretary for mobilization of the opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change and her driver. The two were returning from attending a treason case against Dr. Kizza Besigye a former FDC Presidential candidate at the Nakawa Magistrates Court. The attack prompted a group of about thirty (30) journalists to match in solidarity and camp at the Kampala East Metropolitan Police to demand for action against the two alleged police officers.

July 20: Mathias Ssebwato and Joseph Makumbi, both ofVision Group Media were arrested by police officers from Old Kampala police station in Kampala for allegedly taking photographs at the station while covering a story of an alleged defilement. The two were charged with assault and criminal trespass before they were released after a ten hours’ detention. Makumbi’s camera was confiscated by the police.

July 23: Two journalists Solomon Hamala of Red Pepper and Fredrick Sooma of Bukedde Television were beaten up by the head of the security team of the Kyabazinga (King) of Busoga Kingdom, Wilberforce Gabula Nadiope. The two reporters had been invited by the minister for sports in the Kyabazinga Kingdom, Amin Bbosa to cover the launch of the inter-county soccer tournament when they were attacked. According to ARTICLE19’s partner organisation in Uganda, the two were rescued by the District Police Commander of Iganga District, Nassibu Nditta who restrained the soldier from harming the two further. They filed an assault case at Iganga police station.

July 24: Jamil Mukiibi, a Delta Television journalist was attacked by commercial motorcyclists as he covered a scuffle between two rival cyclists’ associations. Mukiibi sustained several injuries and lost his equipment. Century Riders Association, an umbrella of one of the feuding commercial cyclists had gone to Boda boda 2010 offices (another group of commercial motorbike) in Nateete to demand for their motor cycles that were impounded by the riders when a scuffle ensued.


June 6: Sagal Salad Osman, who worked for state-owned Radio Mogadishu, was shot by gunmen in the capital’s Hodon district, near the Plasma University. ARTICLE19’s partner organasations in Somali said unknown people sprayed bullets on Sagal before fleeing the scene. Authorities launched investigations media reports said.

June 23: Authorities in the Puntland region of Somalia raided an independent radio station, Radio Daljir and ordered it to close down. Media reports said Puntland ministry of Information ordered the station to close following the station’s interview with Abdisamad Mohamed Galan, the former governor of the Bari administrative region on June 21. Mohamed Galan was sacked in May 2016 by Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and has been criticized for leading an armed rebel against the Puntland government. In an interview, Puntland Information Minister Mohamud Hassan So’adde threatened journalists who interview “terrorist elements” with dire consequences.

South Sudan

July 26: Alfred Taban and Ana Namiriano, both editors of the Juba Monitor newspaper, were summoned to the headquarters of the security services in Juba. Namiriano was allowed to leave after questioning but Taban – the publication’s founded editor was charged with “publishing or communicating false information to Southern Sudan” and“undermining the authority of or insulting the president” under articles 75 and 76 of the 2008 Penal Code Act. He was released on June 29 July after being custody for 13 days.


June 15: Senior journalist Simon Mkina and Ismail Mehbood of the banned Mawio newspaper and their Printer appeared before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam facing five counts relating to publishing and printing seditious material. They were charged alongside two others, Jabir Yunus and Tundu Lissu, who were not before the court. They were charged with allegations of conspiracy to publish seditious publication, publishing and printing a seditious publication and printing a newspaper without submission of an affidavit. The state Attorney Paul Kadushi told the court that between January 12 and 14, this year, at unknown place in the city, Yunus, Mkina and Lissu conspired together to publish a seditious publication. He said the publication carried a story titled “Machafuko yaja Zanzibar,” in the newspaper namely ‘Mawio’ dated January 14, 2016.

June 22: Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe, Tanzania’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs minister, threatened to sue a weekly Kiswahili tabloid Dira ya Mtanzania following alleged publication linking him to Sh2 billion fraud allegations. On June 13 and 20 the tabloid published on its front page published an article titled: “Mwakyembe atuhumiwa kutapeli bilioni 2…kupandishwa mahakamani wakati wowote (Mwakyembe accused of Sh2 billion fraud… to be arraigned at any time and “Utapeli wa Mwakyembe wamwagwa hadharani (Mwakyembe’s fraud exposed) respectively. Dr. Mwakyembe accused the publication for linking him to the same allegations of defrauding Sh2 billion through a company known as Power Pool Tanzania.

June 23: Police officers blocked reporters from entering an Iringa High Court to cover a murder case of TV journalist Daudi Mwangosi who was killed on September 2, 2012. According to media reports police had barricaded the courtroom entrance to keep journalists away from covering the proceedings in which a police officer is accused of murdering the TV reporter. However, the court registrar had to intervene and allowed journalists in to record and take pictures of the proceedings. Meanwhile the High Court ruled that police officer; Pacificus Cleophase had a case to answer in connection with the murder of Mwangosi. Justice Dr Paulo Kihwelo ruled that four prosecution witnesses who testified in court had established a clear case against the accused. Police attacked Mwangosi after he confronted them about the assault and arrest of Godfrey Mushi, a reporter with Nipashe newspaper. Mushi had been photographing the demonstration and the police officers on duty.

July 14:  The government of Tanzania revoked registration of more than 400 dormant newspapers whose owners, Information minister, Nape Nnauye, said had failed to abide by the registration laws. Nnauye said the papers were de-registered after failing to issue publication for three consecutive years. He said after de-registration, nobody will be allowed to publish or distribute such newspapers and magazines through a hard copy or electronically as it was now against the law. Owners of the newspapers would be required to start the registration process afresh if they wished to return to business.

Some of the deregistered newspapers and magazines includeMamboleo, Weekly Deals, Mwamko, Utamu, Raha, Starehe, Daily Times, Financial Times, Tanga Yetu Alasiri, Dar Leo, Wakati, Mkombozi, Jamii Express, Habari za Tanzania, Pata Ukweli. Others include Mwana Africa, Pwani Wiki hii, Habari Njema, Kilimanjaro Yetu, Kigoma Yetu, Mtazamo, Arusha Raha, Sani Sport, Admedia Magazine and Advertising Africa.