IN THE HEADLINES
Cameroon and Journalists’ Freedoms
In its 2015- 2016 report, Amnesty International has expressed concern about the growing pressures on freedom of expression in northern Cameroon as security forces attempt to combat Boko Haram’s activities in the area.
Amnesty said that freedoms of expression, association and assembly continued to be restricted and human rights defenders had been intimidated and harassed in the moves to prevent Boko Haram capturing territory. Cameroon had passed an anti-terrorism law in late 2014 which Amnesty said infringed a number of basic rights and freedoms. Amnesty added that: ‘Journalists reported practising self-censorship to avoid repercussions for criticising the government, especially on security matters.
The National Communication Council sanctioned more than 20 media outlets during the year and some of its decisions were contested by the Journalism Trade Union. At the end of the year, journalists Rodrigue Tongué, Felix Ebole Bola and Baba Wamé still faced charges in front of a military tribunal for the “non-denunciation” of sources’.
Nigerian journalists attacked whilst investigating smuggling operation
The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) has called for the release of Prime Magazine publisher, Yomi Olomofe, who was arrested after he reported being beaten while investigating a story about customs officials.
The CPJ wrote in March 2016 that:
‘‘On June 25, 2015, Olomofe, who publishes the monthly community magazine, Prime Magazine, and McDominic Nkpemenyie, a correspondent with the state-funded Tide Newspaper, were investigat-ing allegations that customs officers at Seme, on Nigeria’s border with Benin, were complicit in smuggling, when more than 15 men attacked the two journalists. Mr Olomofe told the CPJ that the men hit him on his face and body with their fists and sticks until he lost con-sciousness. The publisher and witnesses said that Mr Olomofe regained consciousness days later.’’
‘‘In a June 30, 2015, complaint to the Lagos state police commissioner, and a July 1, 2015, complaint to the inspector general of police, Olomofe identified his attackers and customs officers who had not intervened to stop the attack. Police have not charged anyone for assaulting the journalists’’, Olomofe and his lawyer, Akin Osunsusi, told the CPJ.
The CPJ report continued: ‘‘In an October 2015 complaint to the police, the men Olomofe had accused of beating him themselves alleged that he had assaulted them and had attempted to extort money from them, the publisher told CPJ. He denied the accusations, and he and his lawyer said the first they had heard of them was today, after his arrest. It was unclear whether the publisher was formally charged with a crime’’.
The CPJ’s West Africa representative, Peter Nkanga, said that arresting Mr Olomofe when he had been beaten to a pulp had been “nothing short of obscene”. He added “Rather than blaming the messenger, police should energetically pursue those responsible for the crime”.
Journalist brutally attacked by police officer amid civilian protest
Murithi Mutiga wrote for The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) about the approach to the elections in Uganda in a hostile media environment: ‘‘Demonstrations against the government are a routine affair in the Ugandan capital Kampala, and Andrew Lwanga thought it would be just another day at work when he was assigned to cover a protest march by a few dozen unemployed youth on January 12, 2015. He ended the day in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the waist down, after a senior police officer beat him for taking pictures of scuffles between the police and the demonstrators, an attack caught on camera.’’
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