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Africa/Global: Media Repression 2.0
April 25, 2017 (170425)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"In the days when news was printed on paper, censorship was a crude
practice involving government officials with black pens, the seizure
of printing presses and raids on newsrooms. The complexity and
centralization of broadcasting also made radio and television
vulnerable to censorship even when the governments didn't exercise
direct control of the airwaves. ... New information technologies--
the global, interconnected internet; ubiquitous social media
platforms; smart phones with cameras--were supposed to make
censorship obsolete. Instead, they have just made it more
complicated." - Joel Simon, Committee to Protect Journalists, April
The 2017 Attacks on the Press report from the Committee to Protect
Journalists, just released today and entitled "The New Face of
Censorship," speaks of issues faced both by old and new media in
countries around the world. Joel Simon's opening article refers to
"Repression 2.0," and like Repression 1.0 includes centuries-old
technologies such as murder and imprisonment of journalists as well
as those mentioned in the paragraph above. But it also includes
shutting down social media (or the entire internet), harassment by
automated bots or targeted attacks on web sites, or economic
pressures through withdrawal of state advertising in targeted
The CPJ report is available on-line at https://cpj.org/2017/04/attacks-on-the-press.php
Most of the chapters apply worldwide, and are available at the link above.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains links to several chapters
specifically on Africa in the CPJ report, and several articles
focused specifically on the situation in Cameroon and in Zambia.
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out earlier today, and available
at http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/zam1704.php, has several
reports on the current political crisis in Zambia, involving
repression both of media and of opposition leaders.
On Cameroon see also
http://tinyurl.com/kpkmzpt for Le Monde April 21 article (in
French): "Après trois mois de coupure, Internet est de retour dans
la partie anglophone du Cameroun"
and Amnesty International news flash on April 24 on the sentencing
by a military court of radio journalist Ahmed Abba to ten years in
On the use of advertising as a weapon, see also the April 18 article
by George Ogola, with particular reference to the case of Kenya *
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
The New Face of Censorship
Committee to Protect Journalists
April 25, 2017
"Independence means isolation for journalists in Sisi's Egypt"
"The Kenyan government withdraws advertising when newspapers step
out of line"
"Even as the country collapses, South Sudan's government will brook
Also see https://cpj.org/killed/ and
The 20 deadliest countries for journalists, since 1992, include Somalia at number 4, with 62 killed; Algeria, at number 5, with 60 killed; Rwanda, at number 17, with 17 killed; and Sierra Leone, at number 19, with 16 killed.
Eritrea ranks first and Ethiopia fourth, among the 10 most censored countries, with North Korea as second and Saudi Arabia as third.
Cameroonians Are Getting Their Internet Back After a Three Month
by Damola Durosomo
http://www.okayafrica.com - direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/lke9us5
After three months offline, Anglophone regions in Cameroon will
finally get their internet back, reports BBC Afrique.
The country’s president, Paul Biya ordered that the internet be
restored earlier today.
Southwestern and Northwestern areas of the country were shut-off
from the internet in January following demonstrations led by the
country’s English-speaking community who have long felt
discriminated against by the French-speaking majority. Authorities
claimed that internet-users in the two regions were using social
media to spread false information about the government.
The issue gained media attention in February when the
#BringBackOurInternet campaign began on Twitter. Just weeks after
the block began, seventeen year old, Nij Collins traveled outside of
his hometown, where the internet was blocked, to the country’s
capital where he became a Africa's first Champion Google Coder.
[See http://tinyurl.com/zk37gz5 for more details on Collins.]
Cameroonian military court convicts journalist Ahmed Abba of
Committee to Protect Journalists
New York, April 20, 2017--A military court in Cameroon today
convicted Ahmed Abba, a journalist for Radio France Internationale's
Hausa service, on charges of "non-denunciation of terrorism" and
"laundering of the proceeds of terrorist acts," according to his
lawyer and RFI. The Committee to Protect Journalists called on
Cameroonian authorities not to contest the journalist's appeal and
to release him without delay.
Abba's lawyer, Clément Nakong, told CPJ that Abba, who has been
jailed since July 2015 in relation to his reporting on the extremist
group Boko Haram, could face the death penalty on the first charge
and a maximum of five years in prison on the second charge at a
sentencing hearing scheduled for April 24. Nakong said Abba would
appeal the conviction after the sentencing hearing. RFI reported
that the military tribunal acquitted the journalist of the charge of
"apologizing for acts of terrorism."
"The military court's conviction of Cameroonian radio journalist
Ahmed Abba on terrorism charges that could carry the death penalty
is an outrage," CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. "Covering
terrorism as a reporter must not be equated with committing acts of
terror. Each day Abba spends behind bars is a travesty of justice."
Life in No-Internet Cameroon -
This is Africa (Hilversum), 1 March 2017
By Monique Kwachou
The English-speaking regions of Cameroon have been facing a
government-ordered Internet shutdown since 17 January. This shutdown
was imposed in the wake of ongoing strikes, violence and protests
against the continued marginalisation of English-speakers. Monique
Kwachou describes life in No-Internet Cameroon
It used to be difficult to explain that there were two Cameroons. At
conferences, international round tables where Africans and Afroinquisitive
Westerners would swap stories, as well as questions and
assumptions about each other's countries, you would often have to
debunk the myth that you were fluent in French by virtue of being
Cameroonian and being called Monique. It would take too long to
explain the invisible divide of that Picot Line. This problem, which
has since either been ignored or normalised, would be too broad to
broach. So you limit your comments on your country to corruption,
the president's everlasting reign, conveniently patriarchal cultural
'values' - issues all Africans understand and face, unfortunately,
irrespective of their country of origin.
But recently your government has made it easier to explain that
there are two Cameroons. They somehow found that dividing line that
no one would acknowledge existed and now it is clear: There is
Internet Cameroon and No-Internet Cameroon, that is, La Republic du
Cameroun, which gained independence from French rule on 1 January
1960, and former British Southern Cameroons, which gained
independence by merging with 'long lost brothers' on 1 October 1961.
Now when your colleagues from other countries ask you about
Cameroon, it is easier to explain the problem that has long been
ignored and subdued. Easier, not easy. The issues of who and what
you identify as remains as complex as ever. Now your colleagues ask
you, how are you coping? What is it like living under an Internet
ban? You attempt to help them envisage it. Imagine this, you say:
So, what is it like?
It is 7pm. Just two hours earlier news had broken of the government
banning the associations at the forefront of the longest and largest
strikes in recent national history. Now you are reading reports
online, stating that some of the leaders of the strike (and one of
the now banned associations) have been arrested. Upon reading this
you feel alarmed. You attempt calling those you know to check on
their well-being. Your call doesn't go through. You try reaching out
to mutual friends and family online to discuss your fears and
ascertain their safety, but your messages keep loading. You can't
see the tick next to your WhatsApp messages, the one that would
confirm that they had been delivered. You assume it is the network;
that the lines are probably crammed as the news of arrests sends
everyone scurrying to call their loved ones. Things will surely
escalate. And they do. You see cars held up on the road just outside
your window - bikers have taken to blocking the roads with burning
tires and abandoned cars to show their displeasure. You hear shots
being fired into the air, the police descending with tear gas.
People try to park their cars on the pavements to hide in the safety
of neighboring buildings like the one you live in. Others use the
opportunity to loot and steal - you see them running with gas
bottles stolen from the local gas station. You have dismantled your
phone and reassembled it twice, removing and replacing your SIM
card, restarting it, feeling confident that the network will return
so you can check in with your loved ones or follow updates on the
An hour later you receive a call from a friend who is
stuck a mile from your place due to the road blocks. Could he come
spend the night? he asks. The roads are blocked and the police are
arresting whoever they can. When he arrives at your place, he tells
you of the fear on fellow passengers' faces when they saw tires
burning on the road and bikers with bottles - 'kerosene bombs' -
only for the gendarmes to follow with batons and tear gas. He tells
of running for his life and feeling ashamed for not stopping to help
a female passenger who fell into the gutter as they both tried to
escape. He says all this while reassembling his phone. You both
still think it is a network problem. Hours later, you can't sleep.
You receive an SMS from a friend in Douala: Has your Internet been
cut off too? she asks. It dawns on you that this may actually be it;
the government may actually have cut off Internet access. You two
laugh. Crazy people! you remark. How long can this last? Douala, the
economic capital, needs Internet access or else businesses will
crash. Heck, everyone needs Internet access. You two discuss the
government's lack of foresight until you fall asleep. The next
morning you learn that the other regions had their Internet restored
overnight. Just the two Anglophone regions where protests had
occurred, just the people who had complained about marginalisation,
had been cut off. As if to further confirm their claims...
The next morning you learn that the other regions had their Internet
restored overnight. Just the two Anglophone regions where protests
had occurred, just the people who had complained about
marginalisation, had been cut off. As if to further confirm their
That first day you are livid. You feel like you have been assaulted
and no one is doing anything, or saying anything about it. People
are still numb from the events of the day before. Government
officials are busy attempting to reclaim control, assuming that the
strike will die after the arrests and ban of associations. You know
better. You are now both afraid and spitting mad. That first day is
a Wednesday and, because of work, you persevere until the weekend,
when you cross the regional border to Douala to access the Internet.
Picot Line (Picot Provisional Partition Line)
As you cross the imaginary line, your phone vibrates with the force
of over a thousand pending messages. Picture an S5 having an
epilepsy attack. You are in a cramped danfo bus and you don't know
which of the messages to reply to first. Should you reply to any of
the personal messages? Obviously people aren't that close to you if
they can't reach you without Internet-cheapened means of
communication. Where do you begin with the professional e-mails? You
have over 70 e-mails from the online youth development course you
were taking. You have to submit entries for possible publication and
writing residencies before deadlines, you have to send in a report
on your mentoring of one of the YALI West Africa fellows. You have
to do all this and more before returning home tomorrow evening. But
since you're still in the bus and can't crack open your laptop, you
head to Facebook.
You have over 200 notifications. Everyone who is anyone has an
opinion on what is happening in the country. The strike has new
leaders who are completely detached from the reality on the ground,
your timeline is filled with hate speech, depressing reports of more
arrests, violence in other regions, which you had not known of, and
fake news of things that people claim happened in your area. Your
timeline drains and further angers you. Yet nothing angers you as
much as the silence of the majority of Cameroonians in other
regions. Nothing angers you as much as those who try to justify the
Internet ban and those who use the Internet ban to further their own
motives. You post a few rants and get to work as soon as you arrive
at your friend's place. You try to do a bit of work, but your spirit
is broken. You lack zeal.
Nothing angers you as much as the silence of the majority of
Cameroonians in other regions. Nothing angers you as much as those
who try to justify the Internet ban and those who use the Internet
ban to further their own motives.
By the time you head back to No-Internet Cameroon on Sunday evening,
you have finished more than 3.5GB of data, you have ranted as much
as you could, you have criticised government and rebel leaders
alike, you have put up a blog warning the 'Silent Majority' and you
have downloaded as many PDFs as possible, knowing you will no longer
have access to Google when you cross the imaginary line.
That is the first week.
For weeks to come you will make Douala a regular weekend spot. You
have always detested the hot, congested city, but you now have no
choice but to visit it. Your government has made you a regular
commuter, an economic refugee in your own country. After the second
weekend in Internet Cameroon, you return to No-Internet Cameroon
with your laptop on 'hibernate' just so you can preserve the three
Google Chrome windows and countless tabs you opened to use for work
when back in the comfort of your own space. Unfortunately, the bumpy
bus ride jarred your laptop battery and it had to be rebooted when
you arrived. That is how you lost the information held in the
countless tabs you had opened while in Internet Cameroon. That is
when you began to consider leaving your country, the home you've
worked so hard for. What sort of unrequited love relationship is
this? you wonder.
Back in No-Internet Cameroon, banks that have been closed for lack
of Internet have somehow been given limited access so as to
distribute salaries. Smaller money transfer agencies still without
access call branches in Internet Cameroon to verify the money
transfer details you fill out on your form before handing you the
money. Young entrepreneurs with tech start-ups in Buea, also known
as Silicon Mountain, commute daily, an added expenditure for budding
companies. Other fixed businesses and institutions are frozen in
place: NGOs that depend on regular communication with sponsors,
associations (like yours) that do a lot of advertising of
opportunities online, and the plethora of cyber cafes. Somehow
higher education, with all the research it entails, is expected to
function with normalcy despite no Internet access. How would
lecturers work on lesson plans? How would students do assignments?
SMS is the new WhatsApp, so the fake news and messages by new strike
'leaders' are still being spread. Between the Internet ban and at
least two 'ghost town' days a week, the people of these two regions
have adapted to a state of repression. It is now obvious that the
ability of Cameroonians to adapt to situations with resilience is
both a blessing and a curse.
By the third weekend visit to Internet Cameroon, there is more
advocacy for the restoration of Internet access under the
#BringBackOurInternet hashtag. It occurs to you that like Nigeria's
#BringBackOurGirls the likelihood of anything being brought back is
slim. In Africa, with leaders like ours, we must find ways to take
back what we value. They don't just 'bring'. Nonetheless, the fact
that more people are now aware of the injustice, that the global
community is now speaking up as a result of people like Kathleen
Ndongmo, Rebecca Enonchong, Kah Walla and others raising awareness
online is considerably consoling.
For weeks to come you will make Douala a regular weekend spot. You
have always detested the hot congested city, but you now have no
choice but to visit it. Your government has made you a regular
commuter, an economic refugee in your own country.
A month later, trips to Internet Cameroon tire you out; they are
draining. Every time you cross the border and log in, you hear of
another arbitrary arrest. You hear more fake news, either from the
government news stations or from the rebel leaders. You are aware
that you are fortunate to be able to travel to work weekly. There
are others who cannot afford it. However, having to leave your home
and cross regional boundaries just to check your itinerary or reply
to conference organisers is frustrating. Sometimes the thought of
facing Douala traffic makes you drop off at the border of the city,
and you perch in a little palm-wine shack, weary of your
surroundings and able to respond only to urgent e-mails. One cannot
do any real work under such conditions.
This is how it feels to be an 'Internet refugee'. You are tired, you
feel like you are under house arrest, coming from a region convulsed
with the Internet ban and frequent 'ghost town' days only to see
posts from people in the comfort of other regions, selfishly egging
on violent protests, all the while going to work, going to school,
using the Internet... things people of No-Internet Cameroon no
longer enjoy with regularity nor peace.
For Zambia's press, election year brings assaults and shut down
By Angela Quintal/CPJ Africa Program Coordinator
Committee to Protect Journalists blog, November 8, 2016
Zambia's press has come under sustained assault in this election
year, with station licenses suspended, journalists harassed or
arrested for critical coverage, and one of the country's largest
privately owned papers, The Post, being provisionally liquidated in
a move that its editors say is political motivated.
The Zambian chapter of the non-governmental organization, Media
Institute of Southern Africa (Misa-Zambia), noted in a report that
the past few months have been turbulent for press freedom in Zambia.
Journalists with whom CPJ spoke echoed those findings. They said
they believe President Edgar Lungu and his allies have been
emboldened by his re-election, and that the situation for the
privately owned media has continued to deteriorate.
CPJ documented several instances of harassment and attacks on the
press in the lead up to and after the elections, including the
Zambia Revenue Authority closing the offices and printing press of
The Post in June over unpaid taxes, and the broadcasting regulator,
the Independent Broadcasting Authority, ordering the privately owned
stations Komboni Radio, Muvi TV, and Radio Itezhi Tezhi to be
suspended in August for posing a risk to "peace and national
security." The radio and television stations are now back on air,
and the amount of tax allegedly owed by The Post is disputed by the
owners. Its editors told CPJ this week that they believe it was a
politically motivated move to silence the critical outlet.
Other cases include:
In April, Joan Chirwa and Mukosa Funga of The Post were charged with
defamation over an article about the president, published the
previous year, the rights group, PEN reported.
On July 8, police arrested David Kashiki, a photographer for The
Post, when he tried to take pictures of suspected police brutality
at the offices of the main opposition party, United Party for
National Development (UPND), according to Misa-Zambia.
On August 3, Elijah Mumba, a reporter for the daily, New Vison, was
beaten while on assignment, allegedly by a member of the UPND,
according to Misa-Zambia When the media watchdog issued a statement
about the attack, which alleged police inaction, its chairperson
Hellen Mwale was summoned for questioning.
Lesa Kasoma, the owner of Komboni Radio, told CPJ she was assaulted
by police outside her station on October 5, after the suspension
order had ended. She is currently on trial for allegedly assaulting
a police officer.
Police on October 13 questioned Prime TV managing director Gerald
Shawa and station manager Makokwa Kozi over a letter they broadcast
from police, that demanded the station hand over video footage
recorded at an opposition leader's press briefing, according to
reports. Police spokesperson Esther Katongo told local media the
letter was classified. Shawa and Kozi were cautioned for leaking the
letter to the public.
On November 5, Njenje Chizu, a journalist with Muvi TV, was beaten
by police in Kasama when more than 100 officers raided the station
to prevent UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema and his deputy Geoffrey
Mwamba from appearing, according to reports. In an account of the
assault, Chizu said he was punched by police, who broke his camera
and charged him with conduct likely to cause the breach of peace and
The office of the president did not immediately respond to CPJ's
requests for comment. Lungu's deputy told Parliament on October 13
that the president does not order police to beat up critics.
"Things have moved from bad to worse," said Chirwa, managing editor
of The Post. The paper has been operating from a secret location
since the Zambian Revenue Authority closed its offices and printing
press. The revenue authority says the move is not political, but
Chirwa said she believes otherwise.
"The government of Edgar Lungu is the first in Zambia's history to
have closed a newspaper, two radio stations, and a television
station in a space of four months," said Chirwa. "This is alarming
and obviously tells what kind of government we have--intolerant to
criticism and ready to break the law with impunity."
The Post was provisionally liquidated last week after two former
employees sued it for allegedly owing money to them, a claim the
newspaper denies. Fred M'membe, its editor-in-chief and a CPJ
International Press Freedom Awardee, said he believes this is part
of the government's attempts -- through its surrogates -- to shut
down the newspaper.
Chirwa told CPJ that the newspaper would challenge the attempt to
liquidate it. "The Zambian government's desire to annihilate
critical, independent press is extremely alarming and a cause for
serious concern among journalists and advocates of a free press
worldwide," she said.
Andrew Sakala, president of the independent Press Association of
Zambia, described the liquidation as one of the darkest moments in
Zambia's journalism history. "From its inception about 25 years ago,
The Post has played a critical role in the democratic process. It
has been a platform for alternative voices and provided valuable
information on various issues to the citizenry," he said.
Although it was difficult to directly link the anti-media freedom
actions by state agencies to the government, public pronouncements
by government officials suggest there was tacit approval for their
actions, Sakala said. "In some cases these agencies move into action
immediately after complaints by government and ruling party
officials. The suspensions of Muvi TV and Komboni radio is a case in
point. The [Independent Broadcasting Authority] took action
immediately after government officials complained," he added.
Sakala said, "The situation is compounded by the fact that we have a
lot of anti-media and anti-democracy laws which were mainly left on
the statutes by the former colonial masters. These were laws that
were primarily created to stifle the freedom of the people
especially during the independence struggle."
For Kasoma, the owner of Komboni Radio, the suspension order was
only the start of the problems she faces. Kasoma said police
assaulted and arrested her when she arrived at Komboni's office to
meet her station manager for a discussion on how best to resume
"What happened to me was inhuman and should not happen to anyone at
all. I have suffered physical, mental and psychological torture and
my family has not been spared in some of these," said Kasoma. She
appeared in court on October 31 for allegedly resisting arrest and
assaulting a policeman.
In her interview with CPJ and other media, Kasoma said she bit an
officer in self-defense while being manhandled by him and five of
his colleagues, some of whom she alleged were intoxicated. She said
she was stripped half-naked, in the presence of members of the
community and staff, and was held at a police station until her
lawyers freed her on bail. When the assault on Kasoma was raised
during parliamentary question time. Vice-President Inonge Wina
defended the police, repeating that Kasoma had attacked the
officers. Days later Wina apologized to Kasoma in Parliament, saying
she had not been apprised of all the facts at the time.
Kasoma's next court hearing is due to take place November 21.
Local civil society organizations have written to President Lungu
about the state of press freedom in Zambia. At a press briefing,
Sara Longwe, chair of the Non-Governmental Organizations
Coordinating Council, an umbrella body of groups, said there
appeared to be a "systematic move towards a one party system" in
which only voices seen to praise the ruling party and the state were
given space and freedom.
Lungu maintains that he is a "staunch defender" of media freedom. He
told a radio station that if he did not believe in media freedom, he
would have closed some outlets when he was voted into office. He
also defended the action against Muvi TV at a meeting on the
sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, saying the broadcasting
authority had no choice but to suspend its license because the
station was inciting hate speech.
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