29 July 2010
FAJ Alarmed over Increasing Legal and Security Threats to Journalists in Africa
The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the African regional affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), is extremely disturbed and concerned by the growing tendency towards enactment and enforcement of more repressive, complicated legal sanctions against journalists.
In Senegal, Cameroon, Tunisia and Burundi, journalists and their leaders face constant harassment and threats to their safety as part of a brazen campaign to curb the right to freedom of expression in Africa.
"African journalists are increasingly facing governments- inspired violence that is intended to silence the independence and credible voice of journalism. Increasingly, these assaults and campaign of elimination are also targeting human rights defenders and democratic forces that fight for journalists' and peoples' right to impartial and receive free information," says FAJ President Omar Faruk Osman,.
On 10 July 10, the Senegalese First Cabinet of the Regional Court of Dakar summoned Abdou Latif Coulibaly, Chief Editor of the Weekly Gazette to answer charges of concealment of administrative and private documents. The judge ordered the indictment of the journalist but released him on bail pending conclusion of investigations. Senegalese journalists consider that the indictment which is based on concealment of documents, constitutes in its content a serious attack to the principle of the right that guarantees under Senegalese substantive law an absolute protection for journalists' sources of information.
"This is the most shocking and reprehensive case to be conceived by the government's prosecutors in their blatant attempts to manipulate national laws against independent journalism. This case, initiated by a private company and supported by the authorities, sets a negative precedent against investigative journalism. This mischievous, politically motivated and deliberate act of harassment against Abdou Latif Coulibaly must stop," Omar Faruk said.
In Cameroun, Alex Gustave Azebaze, First Secretary of the National Syndicate of Cameroonian Journalists (SNJC) and also IFJ Executive Committee member, Thierry Ngongang, Editor-in-Chief of the privately-owned Spectrum TV; Annani Rabier Bindzi, journalist at Canal 2 International TV and Dr Aboya Endong Manasse, Editor of the bi-monthly newspaper Africa Top Secret have collectively been facing a long, complicated, devastating and tiresome trial since January 2010. Their ordeal stems from their participation in a 2008 TV debate on the police investigations of the "Albatross" saga, the failure to explain how a Boeing 727 purchased for the President's fleet was never received, six years after local journalists, led by Azebaze revealed the scandal while working for Le Messager.
"Our Cameroonian colleagues are held up and stranded in extremely dangerous and tiresome legal battle that meant to take away their time, energy and resources. Once they have been sufficiently worn down, they will be eliminated, freedom of the press will be further eroded and fear and self censorship will replace independent thinking in the hearts of media practitioners," said Omar.
"I reiterate our call for an end to these unjustifiable legal proceedings and once again demand the grave action of closing down their outlets be reversed and our colleagues are allowed to resume their normal and useful service to the journalistic profession," he declared.
"This is the longest legal action journalists' union leadership faces in Africa and we will not close our eyes to this facade of sham legal action."
Zied El-Heni, member of the leadership of the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) and the Steering Committee of FAJ has been followed unremittingly and painstakingly by security operatives of Tunisian Government for defending freedom of expression and campaigning for the release of detained colleague Boukadous Fahem who provided coverage of the uprising in the mining region of southern Tunisia. He was summoned by the Crime Squad on July 23, 2010 to answer charges of defamation, though he was released after four hours of detention after he insisted and defended the legality of his writings that have not violated the code of the press. On Tunisia's National Day, 25 July 2010, Zied published an open letter to the district attorney in which he expressed his indignation at the manner in which the Crime Squad had been given leave to investigate a matter of opinion. The next day, the Crime Squad called him to their offices.
"These repeated and unrelenting attacks against union leader Zied Elheni and the right to free expression is one example of the gross human rights violation that ordinary Tunisians endure daily. Security operatives in Tunisia are a major threat to journalists and have been responsible for several attacks against journalists. The Tunisian government has a duty to protect its citizens from brutal elements in the security forces and must ensure that this assault of journalists stops with immediate effect. The continuing attacks on Zied El-Heni, an elected African journalist's leader will only increase global attention to the deplorable situation in Tunisia. Our message is clear: stop going after our colleagues and allow them to express themselves freely and fearlessly," the FAJ President stated.
Journalist Jean Claude Kavumbagu, Editor of Net Press news agency in Bujumbura, Burundi, was arrested from his office by Colonel David Nikiza, Police Chief in the western part of Burundi. He was arrested after he had published an article on 12 July in which he talked about Somali extremists group Al-Shabaab's threats to attack Burundi and was critical of Burundian security forces. He was charged with treason and faces life in prison if convicted. When he was arrested, the police did not follow the proper legal procedures of Burundi and he is being held in contravention of Burundi's criminal procedure code which states pre-trail detention of the journalists for limited situations. Interestingly the law under which Jean Cloude is charged only applies during war time.
"This has no other explanation except a deliberate misuse of state institutions to harass journalists. All laws were bypassed in circumstances that can only be interpreted as vindictive action by officers abusing their positions to settle personal scores. Jean Claude never committed such a serious act of betrayal of his nation and there is no point in charging him with treason. We feel that he will not have a fair trial and we want him freed immediately," Omar Faruk Osman said.
The Federation of African Journalists is committed to devising new strategies to tackle the increasing abuse of legal processes and wanton attacks by security operatives against journalists.
FAJ stands in full support and solidarity with its affiliates: Syndicat National des Journalistes du Cameroun (SNJC), Burundi Journalists' Union (BJU), Syndicat des Professionnels de l'Information et de la Communication du Sénégal (SYNPICS) and Syndicat National des Journalistes tunisiens (SNJT).
For more information contact +221 33 867 95 87
The FAJ represents over 50,000 journalists in 38 countries in Africa
ملاحظة: بين أيديكم النسخة التاسعة والستين من مدونة "صحفي تونسي" بعد أن قام الرقيب بتكرار حجب نسختها السابقة بصورة غير قانونية في تونس إثر نشر البيان الصادر عن الاتحاد الدولي للصحفيين تحت عنوان
الاتحاد الدولي للصحفيين يدين المضايقات التي يتعرض لها احد القيادات الصحفية في تونس