By Chris Isiguzo

NEWSDAILYNIGERIA: A presentation by the President of the Congress of African Journalists, CAJ and Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Comrade Christopher Isiguzo MFR at the 2nd African Media Convention in Lusaka Zambia (11-13 May, 2023)


Eight (8) countries make the central Africa region: Cameroon, Central Africa Republic (CAR), Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Gabon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, and Sao Tome and Principe. The region has been marred with attacks on the media by state and non-state actors. These attacks are usually covered with impunity.

A number of cases related to the state of the media, press freedom, and especially the Safety of Journalists have been documented by our colleagues on ground, and by many international organisations: VOA, Reporters Without Borders, International Press Institute, Freedom House, and others. Following are some highlights of the reports captured by the CAJ.

  1. Cameroon
    Journalists and media in Cameroon have witness threats, persecution, attacks, jailing, killings. Most usually all these go with impunity. Two journalists have been killed this year and the journalist colleagues and organisation are calling on the government for justice, and the end of impunity.

According to reports, journalist Paul Chouta, a reporter critical of the government of Paul Biya, spent two years in prison from 2019 after he was abducted and tortured by unknown armed men in Yaounde.

Samuel Wazizi, who worked for Cillen Music Television, was arrested in 2019 for allegedly supporting anglophone separatists. He was not seen in public for more than a year. In 2020, the military declared that he died in government custody in August 2019.

In January 2023, the mutilated body of Martinez Zogo, a popular radio personality, was found in Yaounde five days after he was abducted by unknown individuals.

See also  The Curse Of An Incapable State

Jean-Jacques Ola Bebe, another radio presenter, was found dead outside his home in the capital on February 2, allegedly gunned down by unknown assailants.

Both journalists were running radio programs critical of senior government officials, and digging deep into corruption involving highly placed government officials.

  1. CAR
    Most part of the country are under control of rebel groups. Government officials are more and more intolerant of criticism. Journalists who interview other parties to the conflicts are routinely treated as spies or accomplices of the various armed groups. Reporters are often subjected to pressure, threats, violence or cyber-harassment.
    Murders of journalists go unpunished. The list of journalists killed since 2013 includes Elisabeth Blanche Olofio, Désiré Luc Sayenga and René Padou, the French photojournalist Camille Lepage, and three Russian investigative reporters – Orkhan Dzhemal, Kirill Radchenko and Alexander Rastorguyev – who travelled to the CAR in 2018 to report on the presence of Russian mercenaries. A newspaper editor was detained for ten days in September 2022 over an article about a case of embezzlement.
  2. Congo
    Journalists face real threats on a daily basis, especially when they criticise the government or interview opposition leaders. Reprisals include intimidation on social media, telephone threats, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, and even expulsion or forced exile. Newspaper publisher Raymond Malonga was sentenced to six months in prison in 2021 as a result of a defamation suit by the wife of the head of the country’s security services. The case was similar to that of another newspaper director who, two years earlier, was arbitrarily detained for 18 months.
  3. DRC
    The dangers to which journalists and media are exposed include arrest, intimidation, physical violence, media closures, media outlets getting ransacked, and murder. In Nord-Kivu, they have been threatened by a wave of harassment and reprisals since the fighting have resume despite the 2023 ceasefire. The M23 rebels ordered some media outlets to change their editorial policies. The security forces have been implicated in many abuses but enjoy complete impunity.
  4. Chad
    The presence in Chad of armed groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State poses a threat to media personnel. Assaults against journalists go unpunished, as evidenced by the murder of journalist Orédjé Narcisse who was shot dead in October 2022 and whose killers have never been arrested. In February 2022, a community radio reporter was also shot dead during an attack in southern Chad. Media personnel also face violence from the police while covering anti-government protests, and journalists working in the provinces are often the victims of arbitrary arrests and threats. Access to social media was blocked for 470 days in a row in 2018 and 2019, which established Chad as one of Africa’s worst cyber-censors in recent years.
  5. Equatorial Guinea
    In Equatorial Guinea, a country ruled by the same man for more than 40 years, the media are muzzled and censorship is the norm. Journalists are threatened, intimidated and subjected to arbitrary detention. Their phones are often tapped, they need special permission to visit certain areas, and sanctions are used to keep them in line. Four journalists were suspended from RTVGE in 2021 for criticising the technical committee set up to monitor and combat the Covid-19 pandemic. The few journalists who try to produce independent reporting are treated as “enemies of the regime” and are subjected to constant threats. Acts of violence against journalists go completely unpunished.
  6. Gabon
    Press freedom is guaranteed by law but is restricted in practice, and reporters self-censor to avoid legal repercussions. Gabonese journalists are still subjected to intimidation attempts, especially through summons by the security services. Arbitrary arrests are rare, with the notable exception of Bertin Ngoua Edou, a newspaper editor who was detained for four days in 2020 after an article about an alleged corruption case. But arbitrary media suspensions by the Media Commission have increased in recent years. It suspended 7jours infos, an online newspaper for one month in January 2022 for an article questioning the president’s ability to manage the country. Independent journalists are barred from official events and have difficulty gaining access to sources.
  7. Sao Tome and Principe
    According to Freedom House: “The Constitution of São Tomé guarantees freedom of the press and the government has an exemplary history of respecting these rights in practice. Publications that criticize official policies circulate freely without journalists being arrested, jailed, tortured or harassed. However, journalists do practice a good degree of self-censorship, and often depend on official news releases for their reports which inhibits the growth of investigative journalism. Lack of advertising revenue, technology, media training and poor salaries also constitute major handicaps for journalists.”
See also  Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah: 10 Years Of Tales Of A Prince In The Caliphate 

As a continental body, CAJ is also paying close attention to developments in other nations within the continent and we intend to before long organise a regional engagement with the sole intent of highlighting some of these issues and proffer possible strategies on how to tackle them using existing legal frameworks unique to each nation.

Thanks for listening


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here