Africa Media Review for May 4, 2022

Marking World Press Freedom Day Amid New Wave of Media Repression in Africa
To mark World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders – known in French as Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) – said that, despite press liberalisation across Africa in the 1990s, a wave of repressive laws and threats to journalism currently exist. In a statement analysing the Press Freedom Index for 2022, the organisation noted that “there are still, too often, cases of arbitrary censorship, especially on the internet, with occasional network shutdowns in some countries, arrests of journalists, and violent attacks.” In that regard, some journalists have been detained, while others have been killed in the line of duty. No one has been brought to book for the attacks on journalists across the continent. “These (attacks) usually go completely unpunished, as was the case with the 2016 disappearance of Malian journalist Birama Touré, who – as RSF demonstrated – was kidnapped by a Malian intelligence agency and most likely killed while secretly detained,” RSF said. Last week, Mali drove out France 24 and its radio partner, RFI, because of alleged fake news reports about Mali’s military.  This year’s Press Freedom Day – on 3 May – is celebrated at a time when journalists operating in Ethiopia are experiencing some of the harshest working conditions to ever emerge in Africa. Two Ethiopian journalists, Dessu Dulla and Bikila Amenu, were detained on 7 April. They both work for social media-based broadcaster, Oromia News Network. News24

Ethiopia ‘Foils’ Cyber-Attack on Nile Dam, Financial Institutions
Ethiopian Authorities on Tuesday said they had stopped international cyber-attack attempts targeting the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the country’s major financial institutions. “The failed cyber-attacks include attempts to impede the works of the GERD by targeting 37,000 interlinked computers used by financial institutions,” said Shumete Gizaw, the director-general of Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA). He spoke on the state-run local media on Tuesday. Mr Shumete alleged that an organisation sponsored by countries that “envy peace and development endeavours of Ethiopia” has declared cyber war against Addis Ababa under the motto of “Black Pyramid War”.  He, however, did not disclose the implicated sponsoring countries or the organisation or where it is based. East African

As Egypt Frees Prisoners, Fears Grow for Prominent Activist Left Behind
The refusal to allow in reading materials triggered Soueif’s latest battle with the Egyptian justice system that has held her son, Alaa Abdel Fattah, 40, behind bars for much of the past decade — eventually prompting a standoff between the mother and son and the guards overseeing their limited visits. The government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi recently released a handful of the thousands of prisoners swept up in a broad crackdown on freedom of expression over the past decade, including journalists. The releases have come as Egypt faces renewed pressure over human rights abuses. Earlier this year, the Biden administration withheld some aid to Egypt over such concerns. In response, Sissi’s administration has tried to take some steps to polish its image. Late last year, it launched a national human rights strategy and formally ended the country’s longtime state of emergency. The release of some political prisoners in the past few weeks coincided with national holidays that often trigger such gestures. Sissi also announced he would reestablish a presidential pardon committee and called for a “political dialogue.” But Abdel Fattah — one of Egypt’s most famous imprisoned dissidents and a symbol of the country’s 2011 revolt — has yet to win a reprieve, compounding concern among human rights advocates that the government’s actions of late do not symbolize significant change and are instead intended to appease the international community. Washington Post

Senegal’s President Wants To Regulate Social Media
Senegal’s President Macky Sall has said he plans to regulate social media in the West African nation, describing it as a “a real cancer of modern societies”. “No organised society can accept what is happening here today. We are going to put an end to it, one way or another,” local media quoted him as saying. Political tensions during local elections in January led to fears of widespread violence via online mobilisation. This followed the case last year of main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who was accused of rape. His arrest led to rare mass anti-government protests in which at least 13 people killed and several others injured. Journalists also spoke out about receiving online and physical abuse for reporting the rape allegations. There are fears that legal measures could be used to crack down on youths using social media to mobilise demonstrations against Mr Sall’s administration. BBC

Media Freedom: Somali Journalists Under Attack by Al-Shabaab, State and Online Trolls
Somalia’s journalists have traditionally worked in one of Africa’s most dangerous environments, targeted by Al-Shabaab and government operatives alike. But now, journalists say the attacks have shifted online, with hired trolls tormenting them in the digital space. And as practitioners marked World Press Freedom Day on Tuesday May 3, Somali journalists said the physical attacks and the “digital siege” on journalists was making their work harder and riskier. The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) says the digital threats have negated the vigilance against physical attacks. “Journalists are routinely and personally harassed and attacked for writing in their Facebook pages or accounts. Those who report on political events have been the subject of open and violent online attacks by supporters of certain politicians,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ secretary-general. “This has led some journalists having to delete posts on their social media accounts, consider carefully what information should be made public, and/or dilute or camouflage what they say and how they say it.” East African

Media Rights Bodies Call for the Protection of Journalists in South Sudan
In the 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and released in April 2022, South Sudan ranks 139 out of 180 countries. The chairperson of South Sudan Women Journalists Network, Aya Irene Lukang, told Radio Tamazuj that there are frequent violations and harassment of female journalists while in the line of work and called for their protection. According to Aya, journalists generally face challenges in accessing information, especially from government institutions, in addition to censorship of newspapers and radio stations, harassment, and confiscation of work equipment. She says that since the beginning of the year, the Media Authority has recorded 10 cases of female journalists who have been arrested and harassed. “On World Press Freedom Day, we remember journalists who were killed in the line of duty and it is also a day to look at the challenges facing media houses in South Sudan and how to find solutions to them,” Aya says. She urges the transitional government to stop the repression of journalists, noting that societies are developing through information they obtain through the media. The president of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS). Oyet Patrick reiterated Aya’s calls for the protection of journalists in South Sudan because their rights are violated in the line of duty. Radio Tamazuj

Uganda’s First Son Muhoozi Promises To Unveil Political Plan ‘Soon’
Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Uganda’s first son and commander of the country’s land forces, says he will reveal his political programme “soon”, in what some see as the strongest signal yet for the 2026 presidential election. President Yoweri Museveni’s son, who also doubles ups as the presidential advisor on special operations, marked his 48th birthday in pomp and glitz at an event on April 24 graced by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who last set foot in Uganda more than four years ago following a frost in relations. Although Lt-Gen Muhoozi has never openly declared his presidential ambition, some say he seems to be preparing to take over from his father…President Museveni has remained mum on whether his son will replace him as head of State. East African

20 Million at Risk of Hunger in Horn of Africa
From southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya and Somalia, swathes of land across the Horn of Africa are being ravaged by a drought that has put 20 million people at risk of starvation. A donor conference last week raised almost $1.4 billion for the region, which the UN says is facing its worst drought in 40 years. In the afflicted areas, people eke out a living mainly from herding and subsistence farming. They are experiencing their fourth consecutive poor rainy season since the end of 2020 — a situation exacerbated by a locust invasion that wiped out crops between 2019 and 2021. “The number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022,” the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said last month. Six million Somalis — 40 percent of the population — are facing extreme levels of food insecurity and there is “a very real risk of famine in the coming months” if current conditions prevail, the UN humanitarian response agency OCHA said last week. Another 6.5 million people in Ethiopia are “acutely food insecure”, it said, as well as 3.5 million in Kenya. Across the region, one million people have been driven from their homes by a lack of water and pasture, and least three million head of livestock have perished, OCHA said. AFP

President Samia: Tanzania To Review ‘Harsh’ Media Laws
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Tuesday ordered a review of the media law to promote press freedom in the country, even as she strongly warned against irresponsible journalism. Samia said her administration is now in dialogue with media stakeholders following complaints that the laws were draconian and hamper media development in Tanzania. She directed the Ministry of Information, Communication and Information Technology to collaborate with media stakeholders to review the Media Services Act of 2016 to enable journalists and media houses carry out their duties freely. Samia urged them to “come up with better and friendly laws and regulations that would protect journalists and open more space for the freedom of expression and the media.” East African

In Nigeria, UN Chief Welcomes Reintegration of Extremists
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday lauded Nigerian authorities’ ongoing reintegration of defectors from the jihadi Boko Haram group, which has waged a decade-long insurgency, as “the best thing we can do for peace.” Speaking to reporters in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state where the insurgency is centered, Guterres also called for more global funding to help rebuild lives in northeast Nigeria where the rebels are operating. “The best thing we can do for peace is to reintegrate those who in the moment of despair became terrorists but now want to … contribute to the well-being of their brothers and sisters,” the U.N. chief said after meeting with former militants at a rehabilitation camp in Maiduguri. The Nigerian military said in March that 1,629 of the former fighters have so far graduated from the reintegration program. In the final leg of his three-nation tour of West Africa, the UN chief is for the first time visiting Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, where he called for donors worldwide to support humanitarian assistance in the northeast. Boko Haram, Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremist rebels, launched an insurgency in 2009, to fight against western education and to establish Islamic Shariah law in Nigeria. AP

Can Nigeria Ever End Its Kidnap-for-Ransom Industry?
According to a report by SBM, more than $18.3 million in ransom money was paid to Nigerian kidnappers between 2011 and 2020. Relatives of kidnap victims in Nigeria fear the bill will make it difficult to free family members. Last August, around 136 schoolchildren who were abducted at gunpoint at a school in Tegina, Niger State, were released after their parents paid a ransom and bought motorbikes for the kidnappers. Poverty and inequality are one explanation for the crisis. Since the oil boom of the 1970s, the gap between Nigeria’s extremely poor and the superrich has continued to widen. Environmental violations and exploitation by international oil companies in the Niger Delta emboldened militants there toward the end of the 1990s, Nwanze explained. “The militants found the kidnap of foreign staff to be a useful tactic to bargain with the government and bring the attention of the international community to their demands.” But this soon extended to Nigerian oil workers and began spreading to neighboring states in southeastern Nigeria and farther north. “The militants didn’t invent kidnap for ransom. It was a security problem before they incorporated it as a tool in their struggle and commercialized it,” Nwanze wrote. The Centre for Democracy and Development, a think tank in the region, drew a link between entrenched elite corruption and the country’s security woes. “The normalisation of security sector corruption means that military and police leaders failures’ offer them new opportunities to racketeer and profiteer, as well as embezzle from increased emergency security spending,” the organization’s June 2021 report said. It found that “for Nigeria’s top brass, peace is much less lucrative than perpetual low-intensity conflict.” Foreign Policy

OPEC Fails To Boost Output As Members Face Capacity Woes
The OPEC cartel — which has struggled for many months to revive oil supplies halted during the pandemic — effectively failed to increase output at all last month, as members remained plagued by capacity constraints. While Iraq made a substantial boost, countries such as Libya and Nigeria saw their production fall amid operational disruptions and diminished investment, according to a Bloomberg survey. Even group leader Saudi Arabia didn’t hike by as much as permitted by their agreed quota. International crude prices are holding near $105 a barrel as OPEC’s struggle is exacerbated by a de facto embargo on Russian supplies by many refiners following the invasion of Ukraine. The lofty price levels are feeding into an inflationary spike that’s battering consumers and threatening growth, alarming policy makers around the world. Key consumers such as the U.S. have grown exhausted with pressing the Saudis to fill in the supply gap, and taken to deploying emergency oil reserves. The kingdom’s refusal to open the taps more quickly reflects its belief that markets remain adequately supplied despite the war launched by Russia, with which it jointly leads the OPEC+ alliance of producers. Al Jazeera

Hotel Rwanda Hero Had Stroke in Prison – Daughter
Paul Rusesabagina, who was the subject of Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, has had a stroke in prison in Rwanda where he is serving time for terrorism, his daughter has told the BBC. He was sentenced to 25 years last year in what supporters called a sham trial. The are now trying to sue Rwanda over his alleged abduction and torture. “Right now my father is sick. He is being deprived of the proper medical treatment and he actually had a stroke in prison,” Carina Kanimba told BBC Focus on Africa radio. “Now he has partial facial paralysis,” she added. Rwanda denies that Rusesabagina was kidnapped and has said he received a fair trial. BBC

Ethiopia: As Tigray Aid Blockade Continues, Nearby Areas Also in Desperate Need of Food, Medicine
Despite Ethiopia’s declared humanitarian cease-fire with Tigrayan rebels, aid groups said they are struggling to get food and medicine to those in need. Even outside the worst affected areas in Tigray, which are off limits to reporters, providing aid is fraught with risks and challenges. In Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region, burned tanks and other ruined military equipment lie at the roadside four months after occupying forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, left the area. As the region recovers from a brutal civil war, the U.N. said some 9.4 million people in the Amhara region and neighboring Afar and Tigray regions need humanitarian assistance. But aid has been slow to arrive. Seventeen-year-old Ahmed Nuru was living in the Oromia region, but said he had to flee after facing persecution for his Amhara ethnicity. He lost his mother when he was young. Last year, his father died after being unable to get lifesaving treatment due to the war’s impact on the local health care system. Now, Nuru is left to take care of his sisters, ages 10 and 8. He said life is very difficult and doesn’t know how he will be able to raise his sisters. Voice of America

Sudan’s Electric Rickshaws Cut Costs, Help Environment
Sudanese entrepreneur Mohamed Samir watches proudly as workers assemble garishly coloured rickshaws, unique in the North African nation because they run on electricity in a bid to tackle soaring costs. In Sudan, three-wheeler vehicles – tuk-tuk rickshaws for passengers, and motorbike tricycles with a trailer attached for carrying goods – have long been a popular and affordable transport. Tens of thousands ply the streets of the capital Khartoum alone. But with Sudan gripped by a dire economic crisis made worse by political unrest following a military coup last October, the cost of running petrol-oil engines has soared. “People who use the fuel-run rickshaws are in pain, and they know the value of what we are offering,” 44-year-old engineer Samir said at the factory in North Khartoum. “We want to offer solutions.” There is a critical environmental impact too. Smoky petrol-powered vehicles, aside from fuelling climate change, cause “significant noise and air pollution”, the United Nations Environment Programme warned in a report from 2020…Samir says the new electric vehicles check three boxes of the UN’s sustainable development goals: the fight against poverty, protection of health and protection of the environment. “It also makes much less noise,” he added. News24



Photo: Adam Jones