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East Africa: Now is the time to stand up for media freedom

Abdullahi Halakhe (East Africa reseracher at Amnesty International)

At a time when fake news is on the rise and robust and critical journalism is most acutely needed, the press in East Africa is facing growing challenges. Freedom of expression more generally is also at heightened risk as governments move to silence critical voices, both in mainstream and social media.

Increased access to the internet has liberalized access to information, and contributed to the rise of individual digital advocates against government excesses, leading to attacks on journalists and bloggers. Some journalists, bloggers, and media workers have been beaten, arrested and abducted.

Last month, Kenyan journalist Isaiah Gwengi, of The Standard newspaper, was assaulted and arrested by police officers who accused him of inciting the public through his articles.

Journalist Yassin Juma was arrested in January 2016, and held under section 29 of Kenya Information and Communication Act (KICA) for posting on Facebook a photo of a Kenyan soldier allegedly killed in an attack on Kenyan peacekeepers in Somalia. Fortunately, KICA was declared unconstitutional by the High Court three months later.

Judith Akolo, a journalist with the public broadcaster, KBC, was questioned by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for retweeting a comment by Patrick Safari (@moderncorps) pointing out that the Directorate of Criminal Investigation had advertised vacancies with a one-day applications deadline.

The good news is that there have been a few court successes in between, including the striking down of KICA.

In February 2017, the High Court declared Section 194 of the Penal Code, which creates the offence of criminal defamation, unconstitutional. The court found the law, which imposes penalties of up to two years in prison for defamation, unnecessary, excessive, and unjustifiable in an open and democratic society, adding that it created a disproportionate limit on freedom of expression.

Quelle: Amnesty International Press Release

(Letzte Aktualisierung: 10. Mai 2017)