24 May 2018

Africa Day Statement - Surveillance and Harassment of Journalists in Africa Must End!

Photo: Committee to Protect Journalists
Kenyan journalists protest against government censorship (file photo).
press release

This Africa Day, R2K is shining the spotlight on surveillance and harassment of journalists in the continent. Over the past few years, R2K has raised concerns about the mounting evidence of surveillance abuses which have targeted journalists, whistle-blowers, activists and members of the broader public in South Africa. But similar stories are being reported in other African states.

Even though this day is aimed at celebrating Africa's independence, freedom and liberation from colonial imperialists, we continue to witness attempts by various African regimes to clamp down on media freedom and freedom of expression while they continue to loot the continent's resources leaving the majority of the African population in abject poverty. Journalists are constantly being targeted for keeping those in power in check.

Today we are calling on the Cameroonian government to release radio journalist Akumbom Elvis McCarthy who is in custody for a renewable six-month period while police investigate claims that he aired secessionist propaganda. McCarthy, a civilian was tried by the military court, which is a violation of international law.

In Egypt, the government continues to crack down on journalists and bloggers. On Wednesday morning, Egyptian authorities detained Wael Abbas, a high-profile Egyptian journalist, campaigner, and blogger. According to media reports, Abbas was allegedly blindfolded and arrested by security forces who raided his home. We call for his immediate release.

In DRC, journalist Eliezer Ntambwe was detained without charge last month. It is reported that Ntambwe was detained after the governor of DRC's central Kasai Oriental province, Ngoyi Kasanji, accused him of defamation and extortion relating to an interview the journalist conducted.

What is more problematic is that in some African states, journalists are not even allowed to share personal opinions on social media. Last year Nigerian journalist, Danjuma Katsina was detained by Nigerian police over Facebook comments. Katsina was questioning an election of a politician despite facing court action on alleged corruption. Another Nigerian journalist Jones Abiri, has been in Nigeria's State Security Service custody since July 21, 2016. Abiri is being accused of leading a separatist group and being a mastermind of a hoax military coup against President Muhammadu Buhari.

While in Angola, journalist and campaigner Rafael Marques de Morais is still facing charges for allegedly insulting a government official when he reported on the former attorney general's role in a questionable land deal.

This constant harassment and intimidation meted out by police and government officials has created a climate of fear, whereby journalists are perpetually afraid of being arrested for doing their job. The criminalisation of journalists by African regimes needs to end now! We have the right to know!

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