On World Press Freedom Day Amnesty International issued a press release stating that journalists and media houses across East and Southern Africa came under increasing attack in the past year, despite the urgent need for access to information during the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises in the region.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa stated: ‘What we have witnessed in the past year, as far as media and journalistic freedom is concerned, can only be described as a dark period.’
Muchena said to Al Jazeera: ‘We have seen some of the most vicious and calculated attacks on media institutions and individuals at a time when the continent is reeling from Covid 19 pandemic and a myriad of conflicts.’
Amnesty identified threats to media freedom in Madagascar, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Somalia.
With regard to Mozambique Amnesty highlighted the threat to media freedom presented by the petrol-bombing of a media house on 23 August by a group of unidentified people. The group broke into the offices of the independent weekly newspaper Canal de Moçambique, doused them in petrol and set them alight with a Molotov cocktail, extensively destroying equipment, furniture and files.
In the context of Zimbabwe, Amnesty pointe to the police intimidation and harassment suffered by freelance journalist and anti-corruption activist, Hopewell Chin’ono who wasmdetained three times between July 2020 and January 2021. Chin’ono spent more than 80 days in detention for exposing government corruption and supporting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
According to Amnesty journalists in Somalia faced an increasingly repressive working environment. They were beaten, harassed, threatened, subjected to arbitrary arrests, and were intimidated by the authorities, including by police, military and other government officials throughout south central Somalia and in Puntland. Authorities also restricted access to information. Three journalists were killed in Somalia since last year by the armed group Al-Shabaab and by other unidentified individuals. Journalists also faced trumped up prosecutions in Mogadishu and in Garowe, Puntland
“A vibrant, independent and free press is the cornerstone of any free society. It allows for the free flow of information and ideas that build countries,” said Muchena.
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