NMT supports call for release of jailed journalists

2020-04-07

The Namibia Media Trust (NMT), along with 80 other media and rights groups, urge African heads of state to release jailed journalists

See full statement here.

To: President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune
President of Benin Patrice Talon
President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza
President of Cameroon Paul Biya
President of Chad Idriss Deby
President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
President of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki
Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali
Prime Minister of Morocco Saad-Eddine El Othmani
President of Rwanda Paul Kagame

Sent via email

Your Excellencies,

We the 81 undersigned media, press freedom, and human rights organizations are writing to call on your respective governments to release all jailed journalists amid the sweeping COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists published an open letter to world leaders urging the immediate release of all journalists imprisoned for their work. Given that a staggering number of these imprisoned journalists are held in jails across the African continent, we are reiterating that call to your respective countries at this time of grave public health concern.

According to CPJ’s most recent annual survey conducted on December 1, 2019, there were at least 73 journalists in prisons in Africa, including 26 in Egypt, 16 in Eritrea, seven in Cameroon, four each in Rwanda, Burundi, and Morocco, three in Algeria, and one each in Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.

As of March 31, at least 11 of these journalists have been released from jails in Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, DRC, Algeria, Comoros, South Sudan, and Egypt, according to CPJ research. However, at least six more journalists and media workers have been jailed since December 1, and remain in prison as of March 31, including four in Ethiopia and one each in Cameroon and Algeria.

Article 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights states, “Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health.” These rights were extended to prisoners and detainees when the African Commission adopted the 1995 Resolution on Prisons in Africa.

According to the World Health Organization, “People deprived of their liberty, and those living or working in enclosed environments in their close proximity, are likely to be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease than the general population.”

For journalists jailed in countries affected by the virus, freedom is now a matter of life and death. Imprisoned journalists have no control over their surroundings, cannot choose to isolate, and are often denied necessary medical care.

Many of these journalists have been held in detention without trial for lengthy periods and are suffering from ill health exacerbated by underlying health conditions and overcrowded prisons, where they have contracted malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases.

We urge you to release every jailed journalist in your respective countries and to protect the free press and the free flow of information at this crucial time. Journalism must not carry a death sentence.

Sincerely,

AccessNow
African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
Africans Rising
amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism
Article 19
Association des Journalistes Burundais en Exil (AJBE)
Association des journalistes du Burkina (AJB)
Association des journalistes indépendants du Bénin (AJIB)
Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)
Cameroon Association of English-speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ)
Cameroon Community Media Network (CCMN)
Cellule Norbert Zongo pour le journalisme d'investigation en Afrique de l'Ouest/Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism in West Africa (CENOZO)
Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
Centre for Human Rights & Democracy in Africa (CHRDA)
CIVICUS
Civil Rights Defenders
Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection & Press Freedom (CWPPF)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO)- South Sudan
Le Conseil national des patrons de presse du Togo (CONAPP)
Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organisations (CEHRO)
EG Justice
Eswatini Editors’ Forum
Federation of African Journalists (FAJ)
Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ)
Free Press Initiative (FPI)
Gambia Press Union (GPU)
Groupe d’Action pour le Progrès et la Paix (GAPP-Afrique) (Canada, Bénin, Mali)
Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-U)
Index on Censorship
Institute for Media and Society (IMS)
International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)
International Press Centre (IPC)
International Press Institute (IPI)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Internet Sans Frontieres (ISF)
Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA)
Kenya Editors’ Guild (KEG)
Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ)
La Maison de la presse du Niger
Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative (LRAI)
Ligue des journalistes Tchadiens
MARUAH (Singapore)
Media Council of Tanzania (MCT)
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA)
MENA Rights Group
Namibia Media Trust (NMT)
Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Odhikar (Bangladesh)
Observatoire de la Liberté de la Presse en Afrique (OLPA)
One Day Seyoum
Organisation Patronale des Médias du Gabon (OPAM)
Paradigm Initiative (PIN)
Patronat de la presse tchadienne
PEN Eritrea
PEN Nigeria
Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ)
Press Union of Liberia (PUL)
Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits de l'Homme de l'Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
Réseau des Journalistes Burundais pour la CPI (RJB-CPI)
Réseau des Journalistes pour les Droits de l'Homme en Centrafrique (RJDH-RCA)
Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF)
Right2Know (South Africa)
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ)
Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS)
South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)
Syndicat National des Journalistes Indépendants du Togo (SYNJIT)
Syndicat des Professionels de l'Information et de la Communication du Sénégal (SYNPICS)
Syndicat National des Professionnels de la Presse de Côte d'Ivoire (SYNAPP-CI)
Syndicat National des Journalistes du Cameroun (SNJC)/Cameroon Journalists’ Trade Union (CJTU)
The African Editors Forum (TAEF)
Tournons La Page (TLP)
Union Burundaise des Journalistes (UBJ)
Union of Tanzania Press Clubs (UTPC)
Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ)
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ)

cc:

African Union Chairperson President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa
African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus