Nelly Bassily | April 29, 2013
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Achieving freedom of the press is a constant struggle for radio journalists in Africa. Many radio journalists have been attacked during conflicts or simply while doing a regular part of their job. To mark World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), we highlight two cases: one from the Central African Republic and another from Malawi.
Elisabeth Blanche Olofio is a journalist who suffered a tremendous ordeal during civil unrest. Miss Olofio works for Radio Be Oko, in the city of Bambari in the Central African Republic. On January 7, 2013, the Association des radios communautaires de République Centreafricaine published a communiqué, indicating that the journalist had been killed by rebel forces engaged in an uprising against President Francois Bozizé, during an occupation of Bambari.
Weeks later, news emerged that Miss Olofio was not dead but had been severely beaten and her home ransacked. She had been targeted because of comments that she “talked too much.” To learn more, you can read this report by Reporters Sans Frontière (In French only): http://fr.rsf.org/rca-radios-communautaires-saccagees-10-01-2013,43891.html
In Malawi, journalist Anthony Masamba was simply conducting an interview when he was assaulted by the person he was interviewing. Mr. Masamba is the Bureau Chief of the Malawi Institute of Journalism. He told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he was assaulted while interviewing the head of the Malawi Confederation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), Chancellor Kaferapanjira.
In January 2013, Mr. Masamba questioned Mr. Kaferapanjira about news reports that the government had already overspent its budget and that protests against the rising costs of commodities were being planned by John Kapito, head of the Consumer Association of Malawi. Mr. Masamba said that Mr. Kaferapanjira stopped the interview, accused the journalist of being a “Kapito supporter,” grabbed the recorder, and began punching him in the face.
Mr. Masamba was treated for a fractured jaw and bruises at a hospital in Lilongwe. Here’s the full story on The Committee to Protect Journalists’ website: http://www.cpj.org/2013/01/malawian-journalist-assaulted-during-radio-intervi.php#more
For more information on WPFD, go to the UN Press Freedom Day website at: http://www.un.org/en/events/pressfreedomday/. The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity was endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board on 12 April 2012, and is available in several languages, including English and French, at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/freedom-of-expression/safety-of-journalists/un-plan-of-action/
More information on the killing of radio journalist Rahma Abdulkadir in Somalia can be found here: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44480&Cr=somalia&Cr1=#.UXfQjLWLCSo
In Mali, a newspaper editor was released after four weeks in prison, having been charged with “inciting disobedience” and “publishing false news.” The story is available here: http://www.trust.org/trustmedia/news/mali-newspaper-editor-released-conditionally-after-four-weeks/
It is not just what they say or write; journalists can find themselves in trouble with the authorities when their actions are considered illegal or seditious. As mentioned before in these pages, radio producer, journalist and contributor to Farm Radio Weekly, Zenzele Ndebele, was imprisoned and is now on trial for “possession of smuggled radios.” FRW highlighted his case in issue #238, and you can find that story here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2013/03/11/zimbabwean-farm-radio-weekly-freelance-writer-charged-with-%E2%80%98illegal-radio-smuggling%E2%80%99/. For updates on his situation, follow Zenzele’s Twitter feed at: @zenzele
As Zimbabwe heads to the polls later this year, media analysts and journalists are concerned about increasing crackdowns on both the judiciary and the media. Read more here: http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/04/no-zimbabwe-media-reforms-just-more-intimidation/
The Reporters Without Borders website, which carries many stories about injustices committed against journalists across Africa, is available through this link: http://en.rsf.org/africa,1.html
A radio article with a statement from Rob Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists (http://www.cpj.org/) is downloadable via: http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/2013/02/seventy-journalists-killed-in-2012-cpj/index.html
A newsletter by the UNESCO Future Journalists Newsroom (http://www.highwayafrica.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/FJP_UNESCO_Edtion_1.pdf) has story ideas, and is published in English and French.
The Freedom of Expression Toolkit is UNESCO’s contribution to this issue. It is written with upper high school students in mind. The Toolkit covers the major concepts and issues and is written in an easy-to-understand, conversational manner. It can be found here: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/resources/publications-and-communication-materials/publications/full-list/freedom-of-expression-toolkit/
Selections from the many websites related to World Press Freedom Day 2013 and its themes can be accessed through this link: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/world-press-freedom-day/websites/