Case List of Imprisoned Writers for 2009
as prepared by International PEN Writers in Prison Committee
(Details current up to 30 June 2009)
Imprisoned: main case
José Fernando LELO: journalist (a former Voice of America - VOA -correspondent).
Date of arrest: 15 November 2007.
Sentence: 12 years.
Expires: November 2019.
Charge: “crimes against the security of the state” and “instigating a rebellion”.
Details of arrest: Lelo was arrested by members of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) at his place of work in Malongo, outside Cabinda, on 15 November 2007, and accused of having paid six soldiers in July 2007 to carry out a rebellion. He was taken to Luanda, where he was held for three months without charge in a military prison. The six soldiers were also arrested and charged with attempted armed rebellion and military crimes. On 28 November 2007, Lelo was questioned by the military judicial police; the six soldiers who were present to testify against the journalist said that they did not know him. Despite this, Lelo remained in detention without charge or trial.
Details of trial: In February 2008, the case was transferred to a military court in Cabinda, even though Lelo has never been a member of the military. In March 2008, Lelo was formally charged with crimes against state security and instigating a rebellion. The trial took place between May and June 2008, but Lelo was not convicted and sentenced until September 2008, reportedly to avoid unrest and damage to the ruling MPLA party prior to Angola’s parliamentary elections. The six soldiers were also tried in the same trial, five being found guilty of attempted armed rebellion and military crimes and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment, while the sixth soldier was acquitted. The court was reportedly unable to prove that Lelo had met with the soldiers in July 2007 and the soldiers said that they had been tortured into corroborating the accusations against the journalist. Lelo and the soldiers reportedly appealed their sentences.
Place of detention: Yabi prison in Cabinda.
Reporting that may have led to charges: Lelo regularly criticized the government for arbitrary arrests and other human rights abuses in his journalism. According to Amnesty International, during his time as a VOA correspondent (until January 2007) he wrote articles critical of the Memorandum of Understanding for Peace and Reconciliation in Cabinda (a disputed oil-rich sliver of land between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo) and the peace process.
New information: As of 22 June 2009, Lelo was reportedly still detained at Yabi prison in Cabinda while an appeal against his conviction to the Supreme Military Court was pending. According to a report by Human Rights Watch based on interviews with Lelo in mid March 2009, prison conditions were generally good, although Lelo said that he had not been allowed to leave his cell and go into the prison yard for several months after he arrived.
Felisberto DE GRÂÇA CAMPOS: director of the private weekly Semanário Angolense, was convicted of ‘insult, slander, calumny and infringement of rights’ and handed an eight-month custodial sentence on 25 September 2007. The newspaper was also fined 18.7 million kwanza (US$250,000) for criminal libel. The charges were filed by a former minister of justice who had complained about articles published by the newspaper in 2001 and 2004 alleging trafficking of influence. Grâça Campos had missed the previous hearings because he was reportedly not notified of their dates and was out of the country at the time, and therefore did not have the chance to submit his defence. An appeal was lodged with the Supreme Court requesting the sentence to be suspended and a retrial. The judge allowed the right to appeal, but sent Grâça Campos to prison to serve his sentence pending the hearing. On 3 November 2007 he was provisionally released pending the outcome of his appeal. On 23 June 2008, Grâça Campos was reportedly sentenced to six months in prison on the same charges. His lawyer stated that an appeal had been launched and accepted, and that the sentence would not be implemented. As of January 2009, Grâça Campos was still waiting for the outcome of his appeal. PEN is seeking an update. [RAN 43/07 and updates].
*William TONET: editor of the independent Luanda-based biweekly Folha 8 (F8), has reportedly suffered harassment since the establishment of the newspaper in 1995, most recently in the form of a travel ban. Tonet’s passport was reportedly seized by immigration officials when he tried to cross into Namibia by land on 9 May 2009. He was told that he was on a list of persons forbidden to leave the country. Tonet said he thought the foreign travel ban was the result of a 4 April story on the murders of Guinea-Bissau President João Bernardo “Nino” Vieira and armed forces chief of staff General Tagmé Na Waié. The piece was accompanied by photos of the corpses after autopsy and warned of the danger of a similar coup attempt in Angola. As a result, the prosecutor general charged Tonet and one Folha 8 reporter Arlindo Santana with “abusing press freedom by violating the principle of respect for the dead” and “inciting, through the media, criminal practices or the condoning of criminal activity.” However they were not told when charged that they were barred from leaving the country. Tonet hoped to recover his passport by filing a complaint against the immigration authorities. A total of 69 complaints have reportedly been brought against Tonet and his newspaper since 1995.
*Staff of Le Reporter: independent monthly newspaper, reportedly received an email threatening them with death on 20 January 2009 following coverage of a widely reported financial scandal at the National Social Security Fund. The email expressed anger with the newspaper for publishing the names of five officials who had allegedly received illegal loans from the Fund. At least two of the officials have denied the allegations. The Le Reporter article was said to be based on a report from the Court of Auditors, which disclosed the allegations but did not name any officials. The sender of the email threatened to kill Le Reporter employees like Norbert Zongo, an investigative journalist who was murdered in 1998 while investigating the murder of a presidential driver. The email also threatened Newton Ahmed Barry, editor-in-chief of the bimonthly publication L’Événement, who is known for his criticism of the government. Barry reportedly received the same email on the same day from the same Yahoo France address. Both Le Reporter and Barry have reported the threat to the police. As of February, the Security Ministry and official media regulator the Supreme Communications Council were reportedly investigating the threats, as were Yahoo France and the French police.
Jean-Claude KAVUMBAGU: editor/ director of the online press agency Net Press (http://www.netpress.bi/). Kavumbagu was imprisoned on criminal defamation charges for six months from 11 September 2008 to 18 March 2009. The charges stemmed from a report on how President Nkurunziza allegedly spent twice the amount allocated to him on his visit to the Olympic Games in Beijing in August 2008, which the article claimed caused some civil servants’ salaries to be paid late. The government reportedly denied the accusations. Kavumbagu appealed against the charges and was held in Mpimba Central Prison in the capital, Bujumbura, pending the outcome. He was reportedly acquitted on 17 March 2009 and was released the next day. He said he believed his imprisonment had been politically motivated.
Background:Net Press is often critical of the ruling CNDD-FDD alliance, which came into power in 2005. Kavumbagu was arrested several times under the previous government in 2001 and 2003, and his website was suspended by the media regulatory body in 2005. [RAN 50/08].
Imprisoned: main case
Lapiro DE MBANGA (real name: Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo): a well -known singer-songwriter.
Date of arrest:9 April 2008.
Sentence: three years.
Expires: April 2011.
Charge: Incitement to riot and damaging property.
Details of arrest:Mbanga (52), who is also a member of the opposition party Social Democratic Front (SDF), was arrested in Mbanga City on 9 April 2008, accused of instigating mass demonstrations and strikes against the high cost of living which took place in Cameroon at the end of February and which the authorities say led to the deaths of at least 40 people. However, according to the Media Foundation for Western Africa (MFWA), his arrest stemmed from a song he wrote entitled “Constipated Constitution” which warns President Biya of the dangers of the constitutional amendments. The Constitutional Amendment Bill, which was adopted on 10 April 2008, allows an unlimited number of presidential mandates, as well as granting the president immunity for any acts committed while in office. Mbanga was detained at Mbanga Principal Prison.
Details of trial: On 9 July 2008, Mbanga was formally charged with inciting youths to riot during the February strike action and of causing damage to property belonging to a company. On 24 September 2008, Mbanga was found guilty of taking part in riots against the high cost of living in Cameroon in February 2008 and sentenced to three years in prison. The songwriter was convicted of three of the six charges against him: “complicity in looting, destruction of property, arson, obstructing streets, degrading the public or classified property, and forming illegal gatherings”. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 280 million CFA francs (US$640,000) payable to the company Société des Plantations de Mbanga (SPM) and the Ministry of Finance as compensation for damage caused during the riots. Mbanga was reportedly convicted on the grounds that his presence during the protests, as a local leader, had galvanised the rioters. It was further argued that he would not have been allowed to film the events, as he did, had he been an outsider. This therefore made him an accomplice. However, according to local press reports, the riots were widely televised and none of the journalists who filmed the footage have been brought to trial. Moreover, Mbanga’s sentence is twice that received by the actual leaders of the riots, who were handed 18-month prison terms the month after the riots and subsequently received a presidential pardon. The government has reportedly denied that the case is politically motivated. Mbanga appealed the sentence.
Place of detention: New Bell prison, Douala.
Appeal: On 24 June 2009, an appeal court in Yaoundé confirmed Mbanga’s three-year prison sentence. The fines for allegedly damaging property were also upheld, even though the company SPM had reportedly long since withdrawn from the case. Mbanga was also ordered to pay the costs of the trial. The fines and trial costs were to be paid immediately or be converted into an extra 18 months in prison. The appeal court reportedly ignored the defence’s arguments that as Mbanga was convicted as an accomplice he should not be given a heavier sentence than the main instigators of the riots, most of whom have now been released. Mbanga’s lawyers reportedly plan to take the appeal to the Supreme Court in Yaoundé.
Prison conditions/ health concerns: Prison conditions, including food and hygiene, are said to be poor and Mbanga has reportedly developed health problems since his imprisonment. In July 2008 he was said to be suffering from chronic back pain and a chest infection, and had not been given medical attention. In March 2009 it was reported that his health was deteriorating. PEN is seeking an update. [RAN 39/08 and updates]
Lewis MEDJO:journalist and publisher of the Douala weekly Détente Libre.
Date of arrest:22 September 2008.
Charge: “publishing false news”.
Details of arrest:Medjo was arrested by the head of the provincial judiciary police as he left a dinner organised by a central government representative in Douala on the evening of 22 September 2008. He was taken to the judiciary police headquarters in Douala where he was questioned about various articles. One of the pieces reportedly stated that President Biya was going to force the first president of the Supreme Court, a loyal ally of Biya’s, to take early retirement in 2009. Medjo was reportedly also questioned about making copies of a passport of a former official under investigation for corruption.
Details of trial:The journalist was charged with “publishing false information” and held in police custody until 26 September 2008, when he appeared before a public prosecutor who issued a formal order for his detention. He was then transferred to Douala central prison in the west of Cameroon. His trial was postponed in October and again in November 2008 “for administrative reasons”. On 7 January 2009, Medjo was found guilty of “spreading false news” about President Biya for the article mentioned above and was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of approximately 3,000 Euros. He had already been detained for three and a half months. His defence lawyers lodged an appeal.
Place of detention: New Bell prison, Douala.
New information:Medjo remains imprisoned in New Bell prison in Douala waiting for the outcome of his appeal. He is reportedly in ill health, having suffered two heart attacks and respiratory problems since his imprisonment, and most recently a severe ear infection. [RAN 61/08 and updates]
Michel MOMBIO:editor of the bimonthly newspaper L’Ouest Républicain, based in Bafoussam, western Cameroon.
Date of arrest: 4 September 2008.
Charges: Originally said to be attempted fraud, blackmail and insult; now said to be libel.
Details of arrest: Mombio was arrested on 4 September 2008 and charged with attempted fraud, blackmail and insult in relation to a 26 August 2008 column that was critical of Scientific Research Minister Madeleine Tchuinté. He was reportedly unable to pay 15 million CFA francs (US$31,000) in bail for his provisional release in November 2008 and so remained imprisoned. His trial was reportedly expected to resume on 19 January 2008.
Place of detention: Nkondengui Central Prison in the capital Yaoundé.
New information: As of 30 June 2009, Mombio remains imprisoned in Nkondengui Central Prison pending trial. The charges against him are now said to be libel.
*Jacques Blaise MVIÉ and Charles René NWÉ: deputy managing director and editor respectively of the independent weekly newspaper La Nouvelle, were sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly publishing “defence secrets” in a closed-door hearing by a military court in the capital Yaoundé on 3 June 2009. The journalists were not present and were only informed of the hearing after it had taken place. The military tribunal also fined the journalists 500,000 CFA francs (approx. 760 Euros) each and issued an arrest warrant. However, as of 18 June neither of the two journalists had been arrested. The case stems from a series of articles published in 2006 and 2007 that reportedly revealed the positions of the Cameroonian army on the Bakassi peninsula on the border with Nigeria in western Cameroon. It is believed that the Nigerian army used these reports to plan an attack on the Cameroon positions in which 21 soldiers were killed. As part of the same case, a soldier was sentenced to four years in prison and a fine of 400,000 CFA francs (approx. 610 Euros). Mvié has reportedly written to President Paul Biya to ask for his intervention for “unfair” treatment by the Minister of Defence. However the minister has reportedly denied having anything to do with the case or sentencing, stating that the legal proceedings were initiated by the public ministry which considered that the Defence Minister had been insulted. As of 30 June 2009, Mvié and Nwé were free pending appeal.
Wirkwa Eric TAYU:journalist for the local weekly newspaper The Nso Voice, based in Kumbo in the region of Bui. On 13 August 2007 Tayu was sentenced to a year in prison and 850,000 CFA franc (US$1,800) fine on a number of press offences, including criminal defamation. The charges related to a series of stories on alleged corruption in the local government, particularly a 23 April 2007 article based on a central government audit report accusing Kumbo’s mayor of involvement in embezzlement. Neither Tayu nor a defence lawyer was present when the sentence was passed: Tayu had gone into hiding a week before the trial and his lawyer claimed that he had not received a hearing notice. Other charges against Tayu included publishing a supplement without authorization and not depositing copies of the paper at the offices of the local prosecutor prior to sale and distribution, requirements which are widely disregarded and rarely enforced. The Nso Voice has been previously targeted by the authorities because of its critical coverage of local government, and Tayu himself was jailed in 2004 for eight months for allegedly defaming the Kumbo’s mayor. Tayu was granted bail at the end of July 2008. He was not present at the hearing as he had left the country. As of 30 June 2009, Tayu was still on bail pending the appeal hearing, which has reportedly been adjourned 17 times. He and his family remain in exile.
*Jean BOSCO TALLA: editor of the Yaoundé weekly newspaper Germinal, has reportedly been receiving anonymous threats since 27 June 2009. On 28 June he received a threatening call, and on 2 July a text message referring to the murdered Burkinabé editor Norbert Zongo and the missing French-Canadian reporter Guy-André Kieffer. The 2 July threat cited the newpaper’s 24 June reprinting of a report by the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development, which raised questions about President Paul Biya’s private wealth. The report in question is said to include numerous references to an August 2008 investigative report in Germinal detailing your assets.
Armand ONDOA and Flash Zacharie NDIOMO: editor of the weekly newspaper Le Régional, based in the capital Yaoundé, and editor of the weekly Zénith, respectively, were imprisoned in mid October 2008 for attempting to report on allegations of official malpractice. Ondoa was arrested on 15 October at the office of Patrice Tsele Nomo, director of Cameroon’s National School of Administration and Magistracy, whom the journalist was due to interview about allegations of corrupt practices in its admission procedures.
Max Mbida,editor of the bimonthly newspaper Le Ténor de L’information, who was with Ondoa at the time of his arrest, was also detained. The next day, on 16 October, Ndiomo was arrested when he arrived at Nomo’s office to carry out an interview on the same topic. Ondoa and Ndiomo were charged with attempted extortion and insulting Nomo’s character on the basis of a complaint filed by Nomo. The two men were taken to Nkondengui Central Prison in the capital, Yaoundé. In July 2009, PEN learned that both journalists had been released earlier in the year.
CONGO, THE REPUBLIC OF
Killed: official investigation ongoing
*Bruno Jacquet OSSÉBI:political columnist for Mwinda (‘Light’), a pro-opposition online newspaper based in France, and blogger, died on 2 February 2009 of injuries sustained during a fire at his home in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, 12 days before. The circumstances of the fire and Ossébi’s death are thought to be suspicious. It is feared that the fire may have been set in retaliation for his criticism of the government and allegations of high-level corruption.
Injuries and death: Ossébi (44) suffered second-degree burns in a fire at his home on 21 January that killed his girlfriend and her young sons. He was thought to be making a good recovery and his death was unexpected. Ossébi, who had dual Congolese and French citizenship, was scheduled to be evacuated to France for medical treatment the next day. The cause of his death was said to be a “cardio-respiratory arrest”. There was no post-mortem.
Other attacks: A similar fire reportedly occurred the same evening at the French home of exiled political dissident Benjamin Toungamani. Three days before the fires, Mwinda had published an interview with Toungamani in which he accused President Denis Sassou-Nguessou of corruption. Toungamani was at home at the time of the fire but was not injured. He said that an insurance investigator traced the origin to a short circuit in a washing machine, but he requested police to investigate.
Background: Ossébi and Toungamani were reportedly planning to become co-plaintiffs in an international legal complaint against President Sassou-Nguesso and the presidents of neighboring Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Ossébi was following the case closely and was writing a blog about it. He had also alleged in a column in January that the state-run national petroleum authority had requested US$100 billion from a French bank due to government mismanagement of oil profits. The authorities have reportedly not responded to these allegations. Ossébi’s death came amid the run-up to the 2009 presidential election, scheduled for July.
Investigation: As of April 2009 the investigation was ongoing. It was reported that the official Brazzaville fire service report had identified the cause of the blaze as a “short circuit,” although the commander of the Brazzaville fire rescue centre has reportedly acknowledged that this finding was not based on any forensic investigation. The remains of Ossébi’s house were reportedly demolished and cleared away within days of the fire, destroying potential evidence. At the beginning of July, it was reported that the authorities had not publicly disclosed a police commission report on the investigation into Ossébi’s death that had been prepared weeks before. The report had been passed to the magistrate in charge of the investigation, now reappointed to another position. Neither the police nor the new investigative magistrate would comment on the report.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Donat M’Baya TSHIMANGA and Tshivis TSHIVUADI: President and Secretary General respectively of Journalist en Danger (JED), a Kinshasa-based free press non-governmental organization, have been threatened and harassed on a regular basis since 2005, leading them to take precautionary measures, including not sleeping at home, sending their families away from the capital and temporarily going abroad. Threats dating from 2005 have been reported to the General Prosecutor’s office but no action has been taken.
Recent threats: On 7 July 2008, JED reportedly received an anonymous death threat by email and a week later received a threatening phone call from a man who identified himself as the author of the email. On 24 July, Tshimanga and Tshivuadi were summonsed to the National Security Council (Conseil National de Sécurité - CNS), which promised to investigate the threats. Both men were taking personal security measures. On 11 November, Tshimanga reported that that JED was continuing to receive numerous threats and insults by telephone and text message, particularly after it revealed in early November that a radio journalist previously reported as killed in the conflict was still alive. A few days after the report in question, JED received phone calls accusing them of defending the insurgency and warning that they would be punished accordingly. JED suspects the government of being behind the threats.
New information: As of 30 June 2009, the situation had improved, with no further threats since February 2009.
*Rodrigo Angüe NGUEMA: correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP), is imprisoned pending trial for criminal defamation over an erroneous story. Nguema was arrested in the capital Malabo on 17 June 2009 and taken to Black Beach Prison as he was unable to post bail of 20 million CFA francs (30,000 Euros). The charges relate to an April 2009 story, which Nguema now acknowledges was incorrect, in which it was alleged that the head of the national airline Ceiba had embezzled 3.5 billion CFA francs (5 million Euros) and left the country. The airline denied the allegations and, according to Nguema, AFP published a retraction after his source acknowledged providing false information which he had obtained from a Spanish news website. The lawsuit reportedlyalso claims that Nguema was the author of the original website article, which he denies. A date for the trial had yet to be set. Nguema was still imprisoned as of 25 June. According to AFP and the other media outlet for which Nguema wrote the erroneous story, Radio France Internationale, they have sent him the money to pay the bail but there have been problems in making the payment. PEN has no position on the charges against Nguema but believes that imprisonment is not an appropriate punishment for the crime of which he is accused. It calls for his release pending trial.
Imprisoned: main cases
Emanuel ASRAT (editor-in-chief of Zemen – ‘Time’ ), Temesken GHEBREYESUS (sports reporter of Keste Debena - ‘Rainbow’ - born c. 1967), Mattewos HABTEAB (chief editor of Meqaleh - ‘Echo’ - born c. 1973), Dawit HABTEMICHAEL (assistant chief editor of Meqaleh - born c. 1973), Dawit ISAAC (co-owner of Setit, playwright and writer – born 1964).
Date of arrest: in the days following 23 September 2001.
Sentence: None of the men are believed to have been sentenced.
Details of arrest: According to news reports, presidential adviser Yemane Gebremeskel stated that these journalists (and the four others who reportedly subsequently died in custody – see below) may have been arrested for avoiding national service. The detentions came in the wake of the closing down of all eight independent newspapers by the authorities on18 September 2001 (these include the weeklies Meqaleh, Setit, Tsigenay, Zemen, Wintana, and Admas). Since then, only the state newspaper, Hadas Eritrea, has been published. The authorities have either denied that a clampdown took place, claiming instead that the journalists have merely been sent to carry out their national service; or that the closures and mass arrests were necessary for the sake of national unity, or were effected because of the newspapers’ failure to comply with laws covering media licences. However, a more likely explanation is that the crackdown was an attempt to stamp out criticism of the Eritrean government’s treatment of students and political dissenters, and its prosecution of the war against Ethiopia. All those detained have had their bank accounts frozen and assets confiscated. In April 2003, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki told Radio France Internationale that the journalists listed as arrested or missing had been bribed by forces opposed to the government to cause division. He stated, “You cannot say a spy is a journalist…In the middle of the war we had to check them. We had to say enough is enough.”
Health concerns/ prison conditions:It was reported in April 2004 that the journalists were being held in secret security sections of the 2nd and 6th police stations in the capital Asmara. In 2006 the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) noted that an anonymous report which first appeared on www.aigaforum.com painted a picture of the brutal prison conditions in which the jailed journalists live. It claimed that jailed opposition leaders and journalists were moved to the remote Eiraeiro prison in 2003. In 2002, the journalists had reportedly gone on hunger strike against their detention. CPJ’s sources said they believed that the description of the place was credible but some of the report’s details were inaccurate. The report had also been posted on http://www.awate.com and http://www.asmarino.com. In November 2005, Isaac, who has Swedish citizenship, was briefly released for a medical check-up and was allowed to call his family and friends in Sweden. This was due to pressure by groups in Sweden but did not lead to Isaac’s release: he was returned to prison two days later with no explanation.
Reported deaths in custody of other journalists: In 2007 it emerged that four of the journalists who were arrested in September 2001 reportedly died in custody between 2005 and early 2007: Said Abdelkader (Admas), Medhanie Haile (Keste Debena), Yusuf Mohamed Ali (Tsigenay), Fesshaye Yohannes “Joshua” (co-owner of Setit, playwright and poet). Their deaths were attributed to harsh conditions and lack of medical attention. Some sources indicate that that Yohannes had been tortured prior to his death, including having his fingernails ripped out. Media censorship and the fact that Eritrea is closed to human rights investigators means that these reports remain unconfirmed.
Recent information: In May 2007, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACPHR) of the African Union ruled that the detention of the journalists was arbitrary and unlawful and called on the Eritrean government to release and compensate the detainees. The government has yet to comply with the ACPHR ruling and all five journalists are still believed to be detained held incommunicado without charge or trial. According to some sources, they are being held at Eiraeiro prison. There are ongoing concerns about severe ill treatment, possible torture, poor health and lack of access to medical care, as highlighted by the four reported deaths above. According to a 2008 Amnesty International report, the family and friends of the journalists have faced persecution whenever they have tried to speak out against the detentions.
Update on Dawit Isaac: According to an unofficial but reportedly credible report in January 2009, Dawit Isaac was transferred from prison to a military hospital operated by the Eritrean Air Force on 11 January. He was reportedly receiving medical treatment but had no access to visits. It was not known where he was being held. On 13 December Isaac had been moved to a maximum-security prison in Embatkala, 35km northeast of Asmara 2008, along with 112 other political prisoners, reportedly on the orders of the President. The prison is said to be have one of the harshest regimes in Eritrea. In an interview with a Swedish TV company in early June 2009, President Isaias Afeworki said that he did not know what crime Isaac had committed but that he had made a “big mistake”; the President declined to comment on the nature of this “mistake”. He added that the Eritrean authorities would not release Isaac or put him on trial and that they have their “own ways of dealing with that”.
Additional information: This follows Afeworki’s comment in a 2004 interview that he did not know Fesshaye Yohannes, who is understood to have died in jail in 2007 (see above). The President also stated that there had never been any independent media in Eritrea, only journalists in the pay of the CIA.
Honorary Members: American PEN, PEN Canada, Swedish PEN (Dawit Isaac).
Mahmud AHMED SHERIFFO, Haile WOLDETESNAE, Petros SOLOMON, Saleh Idris KEKIA, General Ogbe ABRAHA, Astier FESHATSION, Berhane GHEBRE EGHZABIHER, Hamid HIMID, Estifanos SEYOUM, Germano NATI and Beraki GHEBRE SELASSIE: former Minister of Local Government, former Minister of Trade and Industry, former Minister of Fisheries, former Minister of Transportation and Communication, and former Chief of Staff of the Defence Force and Minister of Trade and Industry respectively (the final six were also former members of government), have been detained since 18 or 19 September 2001 after the publication in May 2001 of an open letter critical of the government addressed to members of the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) party. All 11 were members of the so-called G-15, a group of 15 PFDJ senior officials who signed the letter. They were arrested in Asmara on 18 and 19 September 2001 and accused of crimes against national security and sovereignty. A twelfth G15 member was also arrested but was released when he recanted. The three remaining members were abroad at the time of the arrests and have not returned to Eritrea. In February 2002, in the first parliamentary session since 2000, President Issayas Afewerki declared that the G-15 members had “committed treason by abandoning the very values and principles the Eritrean people fought for”. The National Assembly therefore “strongly condemned them for the crimes they committed against the people and their country”. After such statements it seems highly improbable that the eleven currently held will receive a fair trial. The eleven have been held incommunicado ever since and it is not known whether they have been formally charged. As of 31 December 2008, all 11 men are still believed to be detained held incommunicado without charge or trial. According to a report by Amnesty International in 2008, their family and friends have faced persecution whenever they have tried to speak out against the detentions. No further news as of 30 June 2009.
Staff of Abbi Weekly and My Fashion: a bilingual weekly newspaper and a monthly non political magazine, respectively. In June 2008 it was reported that 14 staff members, the majority journalists, were on trial for publishing My Fashion without the required commercial license from the Ministry of Trade. The case was before the Federal Court in Addis Ababa. If convicted, the defendants reportedly faced between 10 days and five years in prison or a fine of up to 10,000 birr (approx. US$1,045). In August 2008 it was reported that the original charges against the publisher and staff of Abbi Weekly had been dropped, however they had been replaced with the charge of owning and running a newspaper without the required commercial press licence. The new charge is reportedly a criminal offence carrying a fine or prison term or both.
New information:In early April 2009, it was reported that the Federal High Court had ruled that 13 of the 14 journalists and other employees had no case to answer and only the publisher Fiseha Eshtu should defend himself against the charges of continuing to publish various magazines after the Ministry of Trade and Industry had revoked the company’s licence. PEN monitoring.
Amare AREGAWI: editor of the pro-government weekly Amhariclanguage newspaper The Reporter, was arrested and briefly detained in August 2008 and is now on trial for libel. The case has been brought by the Gondar-based brewery Dashen following a July 2008 Reporter article that quoted two former Dashen employees as saying they were wrongfully dismissed. Aregawi was arrested by police from the Amhara region at his office in Addis Ababa on 22 August 2008 and taken to the headquarters of the Addis Ababa police. The police were reportedly also looking for deputy editor Eshete Assefa and the author of the offending article, reporter Teshome Niku, but neither of them were in the office at the time. Aregawi was then transferred to a prison in Gondar, north of the capital, where he appeared in court on 25 August. The prosecutor and judge reportedly offered to release the editor on bail in Gondar, but he refused on the grounds that it was illegal for him to have been taken there. Under a new press law adopted in July 2008, defamation cases should be tried in the place where the alleged offence took place, in this case Addis Ababa, where The Reporter is registered. Niku had previously been arrested and taken to Gondar on 30 June, a few days after the article appeared, but was freed on bail after the judge ruled that he should be tried in Addis Ababa. Aregawi was finally released on bail after being held for six days.
Attack: On 31 October 2008, Aregawi was reportedly assaulted by unidentified individuals when leaving a parent-teacher meeting at his son’s school. He was hit in the back of the head and left unconscious, and was later taken to hospital. According to an eye witness, one of the assailants was apprehended along with a taxi driver whose vehicle was intended to be used as a get-away car. Four men were later arrested in connection with the attack. The motive of the crime was not known but Aregawi and other Reporter staff had reportedly received anonymous threatens in recent weeks in connection with a series of reports alleging that people close to a Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire had mismanaged his investments.
Background:Aregawi ran Ethiopia’s public television after the fall of the Derg dictatorship in 1991 and is reportedly a former high official of the ruling EPRDF party. Reporter is a wide-circulation newspaper that reportedly defended the violent 2005 post-election crackdown on the independent media and government opponents. The board chairman of the Dashen brewery, which is an investment of the EPRDF’s Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray, is Bereket Simon, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
New information: As of 23 February 2009, Amare was reportedly waiting for a summons to appear before court. Once the police investigation was complete, the public prosecutor was expected to determine whether there were grounds to pursue the case further. No further news on the trial; PEN is seeking an update.
Maria KADIM (f), Ezedin MOHAMED and Ihbahim MOHAMED: publisher and editor of the newspaper Al Kidus, and editor of the newspaper Selefia, respectively, were arrested in Addis Ababa on criminal defamation charges on 16 February 2008. The charges reportedly stem from a letter reprinted by both Islamic newspapers which criticised a proposed government proposal to ban prayers in state schools. The letter, which was originally published on the website Ethiopianmuslims, was purportedly written by Elias Redman, vice president of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council. However, Redman denied authorship and filed a complaint with police stating that the newspapers had damaged the council’s relations with the government. On the day of the journalists’ arrest, police confiscated computers and printers from both newspaper premises. On 29 February, after two weeks in detention, all three were released on bail of 20,000 Birr (approx. US$2,127) each.
New information: In March 2009 it was reported that the case was still pending and a final ruling was expected in or after September 2009. PEN monitoring.
Dawit KEBEDE and Wesenseged GEBREKIDAN:editors of Awramba Times and Harambe respectively, are on trial for “incitement”. Kebede is also facing prosecution for criminal defamation. On 7 August 2008, Kebede and Gebrekidan were arrested and released on bail. The police were reportedly acting on orders from the Ministry of Justice, which had requested a criminal investigation into the two papers. Awramba Times was charged for an editorial, interview and opinion piece that had appeared in five different issues, while Harambe was charged for an editorial and opinion piece that had appeared in three separate issues.
Background:At the beginning of August 2008, Awramba Times had been warned by police that they would block the distribution of the newspaper if it persisted in covering a new political opposition movement, Ginbot 7. Ginbot 7, which is named after the day on which the disputed 2005 elections were held, is led by Berhanu Nega, a formerly imprisoned academic (see previous case lists). Kebede and Gebrekidan were jailed alongside Nega in 2005 and spent 21 months in jail before being released on a conditional pardon in August 2007.
New charges: On 27 November 2008, it was reported that Kebede had appeared before a federal criminal court charged with defaming a pro-government political leader named Ayele Chamiso. Chamiso leads a small faction of CUD, the main opposition group in the 2005 elections, which is now allied with the EPRDF ruling party. Kebede was released on bail and was expected to appear for a second hearing in December 2008.
New information: In late February 2009, it was reported that the public prosecutor had filed criminal charges against both Kebede and Gebrekidan at the federal court. Both were granted bail. Gebrekidan was unable to pay post bail and was imprisoned for a few weeks until local journalists raised the money. PEN is seeking an update.
Alemayehu MAHTEMEWORK: editor of monthly entertainment magazine Enku, and three others are on trial for publishing a cover story about imprisoned popular singer Tewodros Kassahun (“Teddy Afro”). Mahtemework and his three co-defendants, who have not been identified and are reportedly unconnected to the magazine, were arrested on 2 May 2008 and held for five days before being released on bail. The arresting police officers reportedly seized 10,000 copies of the magazine from the van Mahtemework and the others were travelling in. All four appeared in court on 6 May 2008 and were released on bail the next day. The charges against them were not clear but some sources suggested that the four were accused of publishing “stirring articles that could incite people.” Teddy Afro, who is serving a six-year prison sentence for a 2006 hit-and-run murder, is well-known for his songs critical of the government. No further news on Mahtemework’s trial as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
Mesfin NEGASH and Girma TESFAW: editor-in-chief and deputy editor-in-chief, respectively, of the newspaper Addis Neger, are reportedly facing charges for criminal defamation. They were arrested on 30 May 2008 and released on bail the same day. The suit was reportedly brought by a pro-government faction of the opposition group Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). The police forwarded the case to the prosecutor’s office to decide whether there are grounds to take the case to court. No further news as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update on the case.
Non custodial sentence
Tsion GIRMA (f):editor-in-chief of Amharic-language weekly Enbilta. On 3 November 2008, Girma was convicted for accidentally confusing the name of a judge with that of another in the high-profile trial of Ethiopian pop musician Tewodros Kassahun (“Teddy Afro”), who is now imprisoned for a hit-and-run murder in 2006. Girma was arrested alongside deputy editor Habte Tadesse and editor Atenafu Alemayehu on 22 October 2008 after reporting to police for questioning. On 23 October, she was charged with “inciting the public through false rumours” under Article 486 of Ethiopia’s penal code and released on bail. Tadesse and Alemayehu were released without charge on 24 October. On 3 November, Girma was convicted by a Federal High Court judge and was held in Kality prison, outside the capital, Addis Ababa, pending sentencing. She reportedly faced up to one year in prison.
New information: In late February 2009 it was reported that Girma had been fined 2,000 birr (approx. US$200) and released.
“Chief” Ebrimah MANNEH:reporter and sub-editor with the progovernment Daily Observer, was reportedly arrested by two National Intelligence Agency (NIA) officers on 7 July 2006 and has held been in incommunicado detention by the NIA at various sites ever since, seemingly without having been charged with any offence. The NIA has repeatedly denied that they have the journalist in their custody; the government also denies any knowledge of his case. It is believed that the reason for Manneh’s arrest is that he is alleged to have had contact with a foreign journalist before the July 2006 African Union Summit, held in the Gambian capital Banjul. Manneh apparently gave this journalist information deemed by the Gambian government to have been damaging to the country’s image. According to a former colleague, Ousman Darboe, Manneh reportedly reprinted a BBC story critical of President Yahya Jammeh’s democratic credentials; his decision was later overruled by editors and the relevant issue of the Observer withdrawn. Manneh has reportedly been moved around the country throughout his detention and although the local media has reported seeing him on several occasions, the government remained silent on the subject until April 2009 (see below).
Last sighting: Manneh was reportedly seen on 26 July 2007 at Gambia’s main hospital where he was receiving treatment for high blood pressure. He was said to be very weak and was accompanied by members of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU), allegedly a paramilitary wing of the Gambian Police Force and Prison Service. Prior to the sighting Manneh had apparently been detained at Mile Two Central prison on the outskirts of Banjul, before being briefly admitted to Gamtel Ward Hospital and then being transferred to a military clinic in Banjul.
ECOWAS hearing: In what was hailed as a landmark decision, on 5 June 2008 the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Nigeria declared Manneh’s arrest and detention illegal and ordered the Gambian authorities to release him. The court also awarded Manneh US$100,000 in compensation from the Gambian government. The government refused to cooperate throughout the court proceedings.
New information: On 6 April 2009, the Gambian authorities broke their silence with regards to Manneh’s disappearance when the Attorney General and Minister of Justice publicly stated that the journalist is not in police custody and rejected the ECOWAS ruling. On 15 April, a report by Agence France-Presse quoted an unnamed police source as saying that Manneh had been removed from Mile Two prison in the middle of the night some time in 2008, and speculating that the journalist was dead. However, on 27 April it was reported that credible sources had said that Manneh was still alive. At the end of April, a group of US senators called for Manneh’s release. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was expected to rule on Manneh’ case soon, in response to a petition on his behalf in November 2008 by Freedom Now, a group of prominent lawyers and human rights experts.
Abdul Hamid ADIAMOH: publisher and editor of the independent Banjul-based newspaper Today, is on trial for “publishing with seditious intention” for an article and photographs about Gambian children who skipped school in order to look for metal scraps in rubbish dumps. Adiamoh, who is a Nigerian national, was arrested on 26 August 2008 and detained overnight by police in Serrekunda. He was arraigned before the Banjul Magistrate court, but the case was then transferred to the Kanifing Magistrate court. Adiamoh was released on 27 August 2008 on bail of approx. US$9,500. He had reportedly been arrested and detained on two previous occasions, including on 17 July 2008, when the author of the offending article, Pa Bajika, was also arrested but released without charge. At the hearing on 10 September 2008, a police officer testifying for the prosecution alleged that Adiamoh had not paid his taxes since 2006 and did not have the required business permit. The next day, 11 September, the editor was arrested again by the police’s Serious Crime Unit, reportedly for tax evasion, and a ban was placed on the newspaper. He has reportedly been harassed by the authorities since employing journalist Buya Jammeh after he was dismissed from the pro-government Daily Observer in March 2008 for being an executive member of the Gambian Press Union.
New charges: Adiamoh was detained for a week in June 2009 in relation to a separate case. He was arrested on 8 June after his newspaper published a story that falsely reported the dismissal of two state ministers by President Yahya Jammeh. The newspaper retracted the story on 11 June, apologised to the ministers named in the article and stopped further circulation of the edition in question. On 15 June Adiamoh was granted bail. He had been detained without charge two days beyond the 72 hours allowed by the Gambian Constitution. On 16 June 2009, Adiamoh was found guilty of “publishing false information” and fined 50,000 Gambian dalasis (approx. US$1,890). It was reported that should he fail to pay the fine, he would be imprisoned for six months. Today reporter Edward Carayol was reportedly also questioned by the police over the same article. No further news on the trial for “publishing with seditious intention” as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
Lamin FATTY: reporter for the Banjul-based bi-weekly newspaper The Independent, has been on trial for publishing “false news” since 2006.
Arrest and detention: Fatty was arrested on 10 April 2006 for an article on the arrest of a number of alleged coup plotters which erroneously implicated a former government minister. On 24 March 2006, The Independent had run a piece that included a list of 23 well known figures supposedly arrested in connection with an abortive coup plot three days earlier. Samba Bah, former interior minister and former head of the National Intelligence Agency, was mistakenly named. The 27 March 2006 issue carried an article in which Bah refuted the assertion that he had been arrested and an apology by the newspaper. The editor and managing director of The Independent were arrested on 28 March and were released without charge on 20 April 2006. Several other members of staff were also detained during the armed raid but released later the same day, also without charge. The Independent was forcibly closed by security services on 28 March 2006 and remains banned. Fatty was held incommunicado for two months, eventually being released on bail on 12 June 2006.
Trial: Fatty was charged under section 181 of the Gambian criminal code for publishing “false news”. His trial was extremely protracted due to its frequent adjournment, sometimes for apparently trivial reasons.
Sentence: On 5 June 2007 the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court found Fatty guilty as charged and sentenced him to a D50,000 (US$1,850) fine or by default one year in prison. Fatty was jailed immediately but was released soon after when the Gambia Press Union (GPU), the country’s largest journalists’ union, paid the fine.
Appeal: Fatty’s appeal is reportedly suffering repeated delays and on 17 October 2008 was adjourned until 2009. As of mid April 2009, the appeal was still ongoing. PEN monitoring.
*Pap SAINE: publisher and editor of the independent daily newspaper The Point and correspondent in Gambia for Reuters news agency, has been subject to extensive legal harassment since February 2009. Saine was arrested on 2 February after refusing to disclose his sources for a 30 January article on the alleged arrest and imprisonment of a Gambian diplomat. On 4 February he appeared in court charged with “publishing and disseminating false news” and was released on bail of 50,000 dalasi (approx. US$1,890). He was re-arrested on 9 February and interrogated for several hours about another 30 January article on a reshuffle of diplomatic staff at the Gambian Embassy in Washington DC, USA, before being charged with another offence of “false publication and broadcasting”. On 20 February, police came to the Point offices three times, unsuccessfully demanding that the staff members reveal their sources; Saine was not present at the time. On 24 February new charges were brought against Saine, who was accused of being Senegalese and obtaining a Gambian passport and a birth certificate by false pretences. He was granted bail of 10,000 dalasis (approx. US$385). The original charges of “publishing and disseminating false news” were dropped on 9 April but the charges of falsifying citizenship documents stood, despite a key government witness having testified that Saine’s proof of being Gambian is authentic. Saine is also one of seven journalists on trial for sedition (see separate entry below).
*Emil TOURAY, Sarata JABBI-DIBBA (f) and Pa Modou FALL (respectively secretary general, vice president and treasurer of the Gambia Press Union, GPU), Pap SAINE and Ebrima SAWANEH (respectively publisher and editor of the independent daily newspaper The Point) and Sam SARR and Abubakar SAIDYKHAN (editor and reporter of the newspaper Foroyaa): are on trial for sedition and criminal defamation after criticizing the Gambian President.
Charges: The sedition charges stem from The Point and Foroyaa’s publication on 11 June 2009 of a GPU statement that criticized President Yayha Jammeh for making “inappropriate” comments on state television about the unsolved 2004 murder of The Point editor and co-founder Deyda Hydara. In an 8 June interview, Jammeh had said the government investigation into Hydara’s slaying had stalled and suggested that journalists who wanted to know who had killed Hydara should ask Hydara himself. The GPU statement also called on Jammeh to acknowledge his government’s responsibility for the killing, which he had denied in another interview a few days before.
Arrest and detention: All seven journalists were arrested by members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on 15 June 2009 and detained without charge for three days at the NIA headquarters in the capital Banjul. On 18 June, they appeared in court and, without the presence of a lawyer, were charged with “seditious publication”. The journalists pled not guilty. They were all denied bail, with the exception of Jabbi-Dibba, who is the mother of a six-month old baby. The other six were taken to Mile Two Prison in Banjul where they were held in cramped conditions for four days. They were released on 22 June on bail of 200,000 dalasi (US$7,547) each. The next hearing was scheduled for 7 July. A number of other Point and Foroyaa journalists were also arrested and briefly detained before being released without charge (see separate entries below), and The Point offices were raided by police on 19 June.
Additional information: Saine reportedly suffers from a heart condition and was planning to go to Senegal for medical treatment prior to his arrest on 15 June. He has been facing extensive legal harassment since February 2009 and is currently also on trial for allegedly falsifying citizenship documents (see entry above).
*Augustine KANJA: reporter for The Point was arrested while covering the bail hearing of the seven journalists on trial for sedition on 22 June 2009 (see entry above). He was accused of taking photos of the police and security agents in the courtroom but was released without charge on 24 June after posting bail of 50,000 dalasi (approx. US$1,700). However Kanja, who is a Sierra Leonean national, was ordered to report to the Serrekunda Police station on a daily basis.
*Halifa SALLAH:publisher and editorial board member of the independent daily newspaper Foroyaa, was detained for around two weeks in March 2009 on charges of “sedition”, “spying” and holding illegal meetings in relation to articles on witchcraft. Sallah, who is also an opposition politician (leader of the National Alliance for Democracy and Development) and a former presidential candidate, was arrested by plainclothes policemen at his home in Banjul on 8 March. On 11 March he was charged with “sedition” and “spying”, charges which Sallah denied. The charges stemmed from articles he had written for Foroyaa about the activities of witch doctors from Mali and other West African countries. The witch doctors were allegedly invited to identify witches in certain villages in the Gambia soon after the death of President Jammeh’s aunt as the President reportedly believed that she had died as a result of witchcraft. According to Foroyaa articles, those accused of being witches were attacked, detained and forced to “confess”. Sallah was granted bail on 11 March but on such strict conditions that he could not meet them (a sum of 1m dalasis or around US$47,600, and three sureties including a former Inspector General of Police and an army officer not below the rank of Brigadier General who must have been retired for at least eight years and live in the jurisdiction of Brikama). He was finally released on 19 March after the state withdrew all charges, reportedly “in the interest of peace and justice”. Sallah has reportedly been imprisoned many times before.
New information: Sallah was arrested again along with Abba Gibba, news editor for the independent daily newspaper The Point, on 18 June, the day of the first court appearance of the seven journalists on trial for sedition (see entry above). They were detained overnight and released without charge, although they had to post bail of 200,000 dalasi (US$7,547) each. Gibba reported to the security office headquarters for questioning on 22 June and was expected to return there on 25 June.
Fabakary B. CEESAY: reporter with the opposition newspaper Foroyaa, has been under threat since May 2008. On 20 and 21 May 2008, he was reportedly threatened by an anonymous caller who told him to stop writing articles critical of the government or face the consequences. Ceesay, who is also Communication and Public Relations Officer for the Gambian Network of Human Rights Journalists (NHRJ), reported the threats to the police on 26 May. On 22 September 2008 it was reported that Ceesay had left the Gambia after reportedly receiving threatening phone calls from the Inspector General of the Police, Essa Badjie, who reportedly told the journalist that he would be arrested if he did not report to Badjie’s offices in Banjul. It is thought that Badjie was upset about an 8/9 September Foroyaa article that stated that the police had been holding a suspect for a month without charge.
New information: on 23 June 2009 it was reported that Ceesay, along with Point reporter Baboucarr Senghore and Gambian Press Union executive member Buya Jammeh, had been forced into hiding following constant threats of arrest from the National Intelligence Agency.
Fatou Jaw MANNEH (f): Gambian freelance journalist (contributor to the US-based opposition website AllGambian.net, former reporter for the private Daily Observer), and pro-democracy activist, living in exile in the United States since gaining political asylum in 1994 following the coup that brought President Yahya Jammeh to power. Manneh has been on trial for sedition in the Gambia since March 2007, for articles critical of President Jammeh. She was found guilty in August 2008 and released on payment of hefty fine. The appeal is ongoing.
Details of arrest and detention: Manneh, who is understood to have returned to the Gambia to pay tribute to her late father, was arrested by National Intelligence Agency (NIA) officers on her arrival from the USA at the international airport in the capital Banjul on 28 March 2007. She was detained for a week then charged with three counts of sedition on 4 April 2007. Manneh pleaded not guilty and was released on bail.
Writings that led to charges: Manneh was prosecuted for articles critical of President Jammeh, particularly an interview with her in which she accused the President of “tearing our beloved country to shreds” and calling him a “bundle of terror”. The interview was first published in the now defunct bi-weekly The Independent in June 2004 and later published on several websites, including AllGambian.net in October 2005.
Trial: The trial was dragged out for over 18 months, with counsels reportedly often failing to turn up in court and endless wrangling over which court should hear the case. These delays prompted speculation that the state lacked evidence for the prosecution and was trying to buy time.
Sentence: On 18 August 2008, Manneh was found guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” of all counts of sedition against her and sentenced to four years in prison with hard labour or a 250,000 dalasis (approx. US$15,000) fine, payable the same day. Manneh was able to raise funds to pay the fine from the Gambia Press Union and her family, thus avoiding imprisonment. She reportedly intended to appeal the verdict and to return to the USA pending the outcome. PEN is monitoring the appeal. No further news as of 30 June 2009; case closed. [RAN 22/07 and update]
Albert DWUMFOUR: journalist with Accra-based newspaper The Independent, was arrested and briefly detained in the High Court of Cape Coast on 14 May 2008 on the orders of Justice Gyinae. Dwumfour was covering a case involving a chieftaincy dispute, which had been pending for two and a half years. The case was presided over by Gyinae, whom the journalist had interviewed on 13 May. Gyinae invited Dwumfour to come to the court the next day in order to find out whether or not he would still try the case. When Dwumfour appeared at the court, Gyinae ordered his arrest on the grounds that he was unable to produce his identity card, which he had reportedly left in Accra. He was released on bail after being held for six hours. No further news as of 31 December 2008; PEN is seeking an update.
New information: In February 2009, PEN learned that the case had been dropped. Case closed.
*Moise SIDIBE:reporter for independent weekly newspaper L’Indépendant, was reportedly arrested by the military along with his younger sister, son and brother on 27 May 2009 and detained at the Alpha Yaya camp in the capital Conakry. They were picked up from Sidibe’s house after the army had carried out a violent raid on a nearby restaurant. Sidibe reportedly began a hunger strike on 1 June. As of 5 June, the journalist had reportedly not been told the reasons for their arrest and detention and they were being denied visitors. As of 30 June 2009, Sidibe appeared to be publishing articles again and so is assumed to have been released, although PEN is seeking to confirm this.
Abdoul Azziz CAMARA and Thiernodjo Dayedio DIALLO: directors of newspapers Libération and La Vérité, respectively, were each given six-month suspended prison sentences and a 50 million Guinean franc (US$12,781) fine on criminal defamation charges on 13 August 2007. They were also ordered to pay one million francs (US$256) in costs and to publish the verdict. The charges were filed by a former public works and transport minister who was accused of embezzlement in articles published by the two newspapers in March and April 2007. An appeal was lodged on 14 August 2007. On 18 December 2008, Diallo was arrested at his office and taken to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), where he was interrogated for several hours before being detained. The detention followed an open letter by Diallo in the 12 December edition of La Verité requesting the country’s head of state to dismiss Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare on grounds of “non-performance and outright incompetence”. Following publication of the letter, the police had reportedly placed the newspaper’s offices under surveillance and interrogated all members of staff. No further news as of 30 June 2009; case closed due to lack of information.
Alberto DABO:correspondent for news agency Reuters, was charged on 27 August 2007 with libel, violating state secrets, libellous denunciation, abusing press freedom and colluding with foreign journalists. This followed a complaint lodged against him by the chief of the national navy, who claimed that Dabo had falsely attributed to him the allegation that soldiers were implicated in drug trafficking during an interview for ITN News, a British television station for which Dabo had acted as an interpreter. According to Dabo, none of the media outlets where he works carried this interview. Dabo and another journalist, Agence France Presse correspondent Allen Yero Emballo, had briefly gone into hiding on 26 July 2007 after receiving threats linked to their reports implicating high-ranking civilians and military officials in drug trafficking in Guinea- Bissau. The articles followed the publication of a 2007 UN report, which named the country as a major transit and trafficking point for cocaine. Military officials demanded that Dabo and Emballo retract their reports on national radio and, when the journalists failed to do so, ordered them and two other broadcast journalists to report to the nearest police station. As there are no civilian prison facilities in the country, if captured the journalists would have been held in military installations where it was feared they would be at risk of torture. All four went into hiding shortly afterwards, and the death threats against Dabo continued. On 7 January 2008, Dabo reportedly received a death threat by telephone. Earlier that day he says he was threatened in the street by the navy chief. On 21 May 2008 it was reported that the trial had been postponed until 24 June due to the plaintiff’s failure to appear in court. The plaintiff is reportedly seeking 180 million CFA (approximately US$ 400,000) in damages. No further news as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
Killed: official investigation ongoing
Guy-André KIEFFER: writer and independent reporter with joint French and Canadian nationality, disappeared on 16 April 2004 and is now assumed to have been killed. According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), he was “abducted from the car park of an Abidjan supermarket, at around 1pm on 16 April 2004 after falling into a trap set for him by a member of President Laurent Gbagbo’s entourage”.
Background: The journalist and writer, who had lived with his family in the Ivory Coast for several years, was the Abidjan correspondent for the French publication La Lettre du Continent, had written for French business publication La Tribune and contributed occasionally to several magazines. He also reportedly wrote for the Ivorian press under a pseudonym and was collaborating on a book with Louis-André Dacoury-Tabley, foreign affairs coordinator for the Patriotic Movement of the Cote d’Ivoire (Mouvement patriotique de Cote d’Ivoire – MPCI). In addition to his work as a journalist and writer, Kieffer has also worked as a cocoa and coffee trade expert for a firm of consultants and has conducted numerous investigations into the coffee and cocoa sectors, some of which have exposed corruption.
Investigation: Following Kieffer’s disappearance, rumours circulated in the Ivory Coast that the body of a white man had been found in a suburb of Abidjan. Michel Legré, the brother-in-law of President Gbagbo’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, was reportedly the last person to have seen Kieffer before his disappearance. Legré named eight suspects whom he claimed had kidnapped Kieffer on behalf of the head of presidential security. Legré was subsequently charged with ‘accessory to kidnapping’, ‘unlawful confinement’ and murder. On 13 December 2004, the French investigating judge Patrick Ramael requested that Legré be transferred to France for two months of questioning as an attempt to counter the lack of progress in the investigation. Legré was held in an Abidjan detention centre for a year and half before being granted provisional release in October 2005. On 11 January 2006, Jean-Tony Oulaï, an Ivorian army captain who claims to have belonged to the Ivorian special services, was arrested outside Paris; the French judicial authorities announced that he was to be formally investigated on suspicion of kidnapping and illegally detaining Kieffer. According to reports, Oulaï has contradicted himself many times in his statements and evidence suggests he could have been the head of a commando group that kidnapped and killed Kieffer. Oulaï was reportedly rearrested on 16 October 2007 for violating his bail conditions and failing to respond to summons. In December 2007 it was reported that judge Ramaël had again been unable to question witnesses on an eighth mission to the Ivory Coast, allegedly due to obstruction by the Ivorian authorities. In July 2008 it was reported that Simone Gbagbo and former Ivorian economy minister, Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouabré, had been summoned for questioning in Paris by judge Ramaël. According to Ramaël, Gbagbo and Bouabré’s names have repeatedly being mentioned during interviews with other witnesses and suspects. However, they failed to appear at Ramaël’s office on 10 July 2008, later denying that they had not received the summons sent to their homes in Côte d’Ivoire via the French embassy there. On 9 October 2008, it was reported that a witness had claimed to have been put under pressure not to testify before the judges from within the French presidency, including by Patrick Ouart, who advises French President Nicolas Sarkozy on justice issues. Ouart denied having made contact with or putting pressure on any witness and brought a complaint for “false accusations.”
Update: As of 16 April 2009, five years after Kieffer’s murder, there was no further progress in the investigation.
*Nanankoua GNAMANTEH:opinion section editor and ombudsman for Le Réveil, a company that publishes the daily newspaper Le Nouveau Réveil and the weekly Le Répère, was detained for almost two weeks in March 2009 for allegedly insulting the President. Gnamanteh was arrested on 19 March 2009 on charges of criminal defamation. The charges stemmed from a 6 March Le Répère article entitled ‘Ali Baba and his 40 thieves’ and published alongside a photograph of President Laurent Gbagbo and several of his close associates. Gnamanteh had been charged on 17 March and was due to appear in court on 24 March before he was detained. He was held at the notorious Abidjan central prison pending trial and was reportedly facing a two-year prison sentence at the State Prosector’s request. However, on 31 March he was fined 20m CFA (around 30,000 Euros) and released. The 2004 press law supposedly decriminalised press offences and banned pre-trial detention of journalists in the Ivory Coast.
*Francis NYARURI: journalist for the independent newspaper Weekly Citizen (under the pen name Mong’are Mokua), disappeared on 15 January 2009. Nyaruri left his residence in Nyamira, western Kenya, on the morning of 15 January and travelled 30km to Kisii to purchase construction materials. His wife spoke to him later that morning; that was the last time he was heard from. His family reported his disappearance to the Nyamira police but it is understood that no missing person’s report was circulated to other police stations or to the provincial headquarters. Nyaruri was found decapitated two weeks later, on 29 January, with his hands bound and with marks on his body in Kodere Forest near Nyamira. Prior to his disappearance, Nyaruri had written a series of articles exposing financial and other malpractice by the local police department. The last article he wrote, which appeared two days before he disappeared, implicated local police in a public transport racket. He had reportedly received threats from police officers in the area as a result of the articles and had reportedly told friends and colleagues that he feared for this life. A team of senior police officers was reportedly sent to Nyamira to investigate the murder.
Investigation: As of 3 March there had reportedly been little progress in the police investigation. On 8 June it was reported that two key witnesses, Nyaruri’s family lawyer and a policeman, had had gone into hiding after receiving death threats. The lawyer had been pushing for the arrest of Nyaruri’s suspected killers; the policeman had been providing protection to the lawyer and had been instrumental in the arrest of two key suspects. The threats warned them to drop the case. It is suspected that senior policemen from Nyamira may have masterminded the murder and be responsible for attempting to stall the investigation. The police officers responsible for investigating the murder have also received repeated threats; one of them is said to have filed a complaint to the police commissioner but this apparently only caused the threats to intensify. PEN monitoring.
Philo IKONYA (f) and Fwamba N C FWAMBA:Ikonya is an author and human rights activist and President of Kenyan PEN; Fwanba is a contributor to various print media. Both are facing a number of court cases for taking part in illegal demonstrations. (1) Ikonya was arrested on 31 July 2007, when she had paid a hospital visit to two fellow writers and three other activists who had been arrested after taking part in a demonstration and were subsequently injured when the police car they were travelling in was involved in a traffic accident. Ikonya was detained overnight and released on bail the following day. (2) Ikonya was rearrested on 7 August 2007 along with Fwamba and nine others while they were singing a peace song in a small group outside the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and in the view of the media, to protest against arbitrary arrests of members of civil society. (3) Ikonya and Fwamba were arrested again on 18 February 2009 for taking part in a peaceful protest against hyperinflation and the rising prices of maize flour at a time of famine in Kenya. They were arrested outside the Kenyan parliament along with another activist. All three were reportedly severely assaulted while in police custody. The attack on Ikonya included a senior police officer grabbing her near her breasts, ripping her clothes and threatening to kill her and Fwamba. According to Ikonya, the same police officer had carried out a similar assault on another female activist in 2008 but despite this has since been promoted. Ikonya was released on bail late the same night (18 February) following intervention by lawyers and local campaigners and associated media coverage. On 19 February she and the other two were charged with “taking part in an unlawful assembly” and released on bail. Both Ikonya and Fwamba were hospitalized following their release to receive treatment for injuries sustained during the assault. Ikonya was suffering from considerable bruising to the neck, chin and underarm area and her left hand, as well as anxiety related to her treatment in custody. She was discharged on 21 February. Ikonya and Fwamba attempted to lodge a complaint against the senior police officer who assaulted them but this was denied on three successive occasions. A police spokesperson has since denied Ikonya’s version of events, despite wide media coverage which apparently confirms it. Ikonya, who had been involved in a number of protests and political readings prior to her arrest and assault, believes that the incident was related to her outspokenness on political matters.
Update: As of 30 June 2009, Ikonya is reportedly still recovering from injuries sustained during the police assault and has been unable to obtain redress for the assault. No further news on the various court cases as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
Okiya Omtatah OKOITI: writer and journalist, is facing prosecution for taking part in demonstrations against the Kenyan government, and was arrested three times between July 2007 and July 2008.
Details of most recent arrest: On 8 July 2008, Okoiti was arrested for leading a protest calling on the then Finance Minister, Amos Kimunya, to resign due to alleged irregularities in the sale of a hotel to foreign investors (the Minister reportedly stepped down later that day). At the police station Okoiti was reportedly assaulted by the Central Division Deputy OCPD and two other senior policemen not in uniform.
Charges: Okoiti and six others were later charged with “participating in an unlawful assembly contrary to Section 78 of the Penal Code,” an offence which reportedly carries a mandatory one-year jail term.
Details of trial: Okoiti and the others were arraigned at the Kibera Law Courts on 8 and 9 July 2008 and were released on bail. The case was due to be heard on 14 July 2008 but was adjourned until 21 July as the police said that they had lost the file. On 5 August 2008, Okoiti’s lawyers argued that the Public Order Act under which he and the other six are being charged contradicts the Constitution of Kenya and requested the matter to be moved to a constitutional court. The State was due to respond on 22 August. They were given a copy of the magistrate’s earlier ruling ordering the police to investigate the matter, which they intend to try to enforce. The challenge to the Public Order Act has now been referred to the High Court for direction; the next hearing was due on 19 February 2009. Okoiti says that since the attack he has been informally approached by the Central Division Deputy OCPD asking him to withdraw his complaint. The writer is currently preparing a criminal lawsuit against the police officer. No further news as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
Previous arrests: (1) Okoiti was previously detained overnight on 17 January 2008 while protesting against the Kenyan police’s shoot-to-kill policy in areas where there had been opposition to the rigging of the presidential elections. He was reportedly charged with the “causing a breach of the peace and giving speeches on the streets asking Kenyans to arise and reclaim their democratic rights”. Okoiti was released on bail and the charges were later dropped. (2) On 31 July 2007, the writer was arrested with four other individuals taking part in a demonstration protesting about the salaries of Kenyan members of parliament. Omtatah and another man were hospitalised overnight after the police car they were travelling in was involved in a traffic accident, and were released after appearing in court, after having spent 48 hours in police custody. Okoiti alleges that he was assaulted while being arrested and lost a tooth as a result of the accident, and suspects that they were being illegally abducted when the accident occurred. The case was dismissed as the police had failed to charge the men within the required 24-hour period. Okoiti went on to sue the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner for putting his life in danger and violating his constitutional rights through malicious arrest and detention, among other things. The case moved to court on 10 December 2008. PEN monitoring.
*Eric ORINA: freelance journalist for a number of publications including the Daily Nation and The Standard; also Secretary General of the Kenya Union of Journalists and chairman of the nascent Kenya Non Fiction Authors Association. Orina was reportedly assaulted by policemen during public celebrations for Madaraka (Kenya self government) Day in a stadium in Nairobi on 1 June 2009. Orina reportedly saw photojournalist Boniface Mwangi being manhandled by two men and went to his rescue. When Orina questioned the behaviour of the assailants, who turned out to be plainclothes policemen, he and Mwangi were reportedly taken to the basement of the stadium and assaulted. Both journalists were left with severe injuries, in Orina’s case a deep cut to his head and bruising to the hand, ribs and legs, while Mwangi suffered a sprained ankle and bruising. They were then detained overnight in police custody and appeared in court the following day, charged with creating a disturbance and causing a breach of peace. Despite the police’s request to hold the journalists for another week “to complete investigations”, Orina and Mwangi were released on bail of KES20,000 (approx. US$256) each and ordered to reappear in court on 15 July. Following their release the journalists received hospital treatment for their injuries. Mwangi’s wife reportedly suffered a miscarriage on 3 June as a result of stress suffered due to the assault. The journalists have lodged a complaint with the authorities about the police’s behaviour.
*Jeannot RAMAMBAZAFY:journalist for the website Madagate.com, reportedly received repeated death threats by telephone on 19 June 2009. The threats came three days after he posted an article including photos of supporters of the deposed President Marc Ravalomanana creating a disturbance outside the Malagasy embassy in Paris. From looking at the phone numbers, Ramambazafy was reportedly able to establish that one of the callers was Malagasy living in a Paris suburb.
*Christian RIVO RAKOTONIRINA (editor of an online newspaper and former editor of the daily newspaper Tribune de Madagascar), Tiaray RAKOTO (journalist for the daily newspaper Inona Ny Vaovao? (What news?), owned by the former President) and Sitraka RAFANOMEZANTSOA (journalist with the daily Malaza). The three journalists were among a number of journalists who were threatened and assaulted in the capital Antananarivo at the beginning of March 2009. The attacks took place during the political upheaval resulting from a power struggle between the then President Marc Ravalomanana and the opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, who took power with military backing in mid March 2009. On 10 March 2009, Rakotonirina was beaten and left in a coma at a mass meeting held by Ravalomanana’s supporters. The journalist’s assailants accused him of phoning Rajoelina and seized his mobile phone before attacking him. Rakotonirina was taken to hospital to receive treatment for his injuries. On the same day, Rakoto was chased, searched and robbed by pro-Rajoelina militants. As a result of these incidents, Tribune de Madagascar and Inona Ny Vaovao? decided to temporarily cease publication. Three days earlier, on 7 March, Rafanomezantsoa was assaulted by the “casseurs de manif” (demo busters), a term used to describe Ravalomanana’s supporters. The journalist said that he had been beaten him with clubs and iron bars, leaving him with bruising to the head and a badly cut eyelid.
Make CHIPALASA and James MPHANDE: journalist and managing editor of the Daily Times, were charged on 2 February 2008 with ‘publishing false news likely to lead to a breach of public order’. The charges are believed to be linked to a 14 January 2008 piece quoting the opposition leader criticizing the government’s preparations for the next national elections. Chipalasa was arrested on 2 February and questioned for several hours, before being released on bail the next day. The two men reportedly face up to six months in prison. No further news as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
Chinyeke TEMBO: freelance journalist. Tembo was arrested around 17 April 2008 when he went to enquire about the arrest of his colleague Maxwell Ng’ambi, senior reporter for The Nation. Tembo was reportedly beaten and detained for fondling or complimenting a policewoman. Both he and Ng’ambi were held without charge for a number of days before being released on bail. On 21 November 2008, it was reported that the Magistrate’s Court in Lilongwe had acquitted Ng’ambi of the charge of providing false information to a public officer due to lack of evidence. No further news as of 30 June 2009. PEN is seeking an update on Tembo’s case.
Diaby Makoro CAMARA and Oumar BOUARÉ: director and editor respectively of the private monthly Kabako, were handed criminal defamation convictions on 5 March 2007 by a court in the capital, Bamako, for a December 2006 story that criticised a government minister. They were sentenced to four-month suspended terms, fined 50,000 CFA francs (US$100) and ordered to publish the court decision. Camara and Bouaré reportedly planned to appeal. Bouaré reportedly died in a road accident on the night of 30 July 2008. No further news on the status of Camara’s appeal as of 30 June 2009; case closed due to lack of information.
Imprisoned: main case
*Hanevy Ould DEHAH: editor of the website Taqadoumy, is in prison pending trial for “violating public decency”, “inciting crimes” and “publishing court statements still under the seal of confidentiality”. Dehah was arrested on 18 June 2009 on the orders of the Nouakchott prosecutor’s office following a complaint by the head of the opposition Alliance for Justice and Democracy/ Movement for Renovation (AJD/MR), who is also a presidential candidate. The politician was angered by a 22 April article which referred to his alleged purchase of a villa costing 30 million ouguiyas (approx. about 83,000 Euros) in one of the capital’s chicest neighbourhoods. The politician and his family reportedly said the article was “defamatory and baseless”. Dehah was charged on 24 June and taken to Dart Naim prison. He is said to face a five-year jail sentence if found guilty. The trial was expected to take place in July.
Mohamed Ould ABDELLATIF and Mohamed Nema OUMAR:editor and managing editor respectively of the Arabic-language weekly newspaper Al-Houriya , were detained for around four weeks in July/ August 2008 and are now on trial for allegedly defaming some judges. Oumar is also on trial for defaming a senator. The two men were arrested on 21 July 2008 over an article on judicial corruption in that day’s edition of the newspaper. The article in question had claimed that some judges had collected bribes in order to close a case involving some 43 people suspected of involvement in drug trafficking, including a businessman and a police officer. In response, three judges at the criminal appeal court filed a defamation suit against Abdellatif and Oumar. The journalists were both given conditional release on 17 August 2008. During his detention, Abdellatif reportedly required hospital treatment for a lung problem aggravated by alleged police mistreatment intended to make him reveal his sources for the story. No date had been set for a trial by late 2008.
Other charges: Oumar was previously arrested and detained in June 2008 on defamation charges brought by a senator. The editor was arrested by plainclothes police officers at Nouakchott international airport on 12 June after accompanying the President as press representative on an official visit to Libya. He was taken in an unmarked car to a police station in Nouakchott and held for 30 hours before being released on the evening of 13 June. Two days later, on 15 June 2008, he was charged with “libel and insult” and was ordered to report to the police twice a week pending trial. His passport was confiscated and a twomonth international travel ban imposed. The case was brought by Senator Mohcen Ould El Hadj, representative for Rosso, on the basis of an article by Oumar that was very critical of Hadj’s participation in celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel. The case had reportedly been dropped by the deputy public prosecutor after Hadj failed to appear in court for a hearing, but on 9 June 2008 the charges were reinstated by the public prosecutor and an order was issued for Oumar to be placed in pre-trial custody. As of 30 June 2009, no further news on either case; PEN is seeking an update.
*Abou Abbass Ould BRAHIM: writer, university professor and editor of the news website Taqadoumy (http://www.taqadoumy.com), was detained for three days in mid March 2009 as a result of reports posted on his website, which was also temporarily closed. Brahim was arrested in a café in the capital Nouakchott on 15 March. Journalists who staged a demonstration in support of Brahim the next day outside the United Nations office in Nouakchott were violently dispersed by anti-riot police using batons and teargas. Several of the journalists were reportedly roughed up, including Hachem Sidi Salem of Reuters and Ahmedou Ould Wedia of the Arabic-language daily newspaper Siraj. On 17 March, a criminal court closed the Taqadoumy website at prosecutors’ request for posting “mendacious and defamatory” information. The prosecutor’s office said the order came in response to complaints it had received. The court accused the site of violating journalistic ethics and undermining national unity by means of “defamation and inciting hatred.” Brahim was released on 18 March after being detained for three days. The website was reopened the same day.
*Mohamed Ould ZEINE: editor of the independent Arab-language daily newspaper El Wattan and radio presenter, was reportedly violently attacked in a suspected murder attempt on 12 May 2009. Late that night, Ould Zeine received an anonymous call at the radio station where he works saying that one of his friends needed help. When Ould Zeine arrived at the place he was told to go to, two men got out of a car, beat him with baseball bats and slashed him with knives. He suffered severe injuries, particularly to his hands. His assailants smashed Ould Zeine’s head against a wall, which caused him to faint, and left him for dead. He later lodged an official complaint with the police.
Abdel Fettah Ould ABEIDNA: managing editor of the daily Arabiclanguage newspaper Al-Aqsa, served around four months of a one-year prison sentence for criminal libel before being pardoned and released in April 2009. Abeidna was detained in Nouakchott on 24 May 2007 on libel charges brought against him by a businessman whom the editor had linked in a 16 May 2007 article to a recently uncovered large-scale cocaine racket in which a number of politicians had been implicated. The article reportedly did not present firm evidence. Abeidna was granted bail on 28 May 2007. On 7 November 2007 he was sentenced in absentia to one year in prison. On 11 February 2008, the appeal court confirmed one-year imprisonment sentence and fine. On 30 November 2008, Abeidna was extradited from Dubai, where he had spent the last year, and jailed on arrival in Mauritania. He was released on 8 April 2009 following a pardon issued by the head of the military government, General Ould Abdel Aziz, to 68 prisoners after the justice minister visited Nouakchott’s prisons jails.
*Bernardo CARLOS:journalist for the daily newspaper Noticias, was reportedly twice threatened with death by the governor of Tete province in mid March 2009, apparently as a result of his reporting. The first threat occurred on 16 March when the governor was touring the Mágoè district in Tete province. While addressing a meeting attended by a number of journalists from broadcast and print media, the governor said that what happened to editor Carlos Cardoso, who was murdered in November 2000, could happen to Bernardo Carlos. The next day, while addressing a group of journalists who were covering his visit, the governor said that what Carlos wrote was tarnishing his reputation. The governor was apparently angered by some of Carlos’ recent articles exposing problems in the management of public works and municipal services. One story in particular focused on allegedly sub-standard electrics work in a district in Tete province, and the fact that two years after floods in the province some victims were still homeless.
*Boussada BEN ALI: managing editor of the Niamey-based independent weekly newspaper L’Action, was sentenced to three months in prison for allegedly “disseminating false information likely to disturb public order” on 6 February 2009. He was also fined CFA 50,000 (approx. US$98). Ben Ali had been in detention since his arrest on 23 January, following a complaint filed against him by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning over a 13 January article. The article reportedly claimed that the minister had diverted funds from an oil agreement between Niger and China, and that the Minister had awarded a medical supply contract without an open bidding process. The state prosecutor had requested a six-month prison term for the journalist. Ben Ali lodged an appeal but his sentence was upheld on 14 April. He was expected to be released on 23 April 2009 on expiry of his sentence. PEN is seeking to confirm that this is the case.
Background: In 2007, Ben Ali was given a two-month suspended sentence for defaming a former Tourism Minister, whom the journalist said was colluding with Tuareg rebels in Niger’s Saharan north. Ben Ali appealed the sentence. The former minister later confessed to his involvement with the rebels and was sentenced to death in absentia.
Moussa AKSAR and Aboubacar SANI: editor and reporter for the weekly newspaper L’Evènement, were sentenced to three months in prison for criminal libel by a court in the Nigerien capital, Niamey, on 18 November 2008. The journalists were also ordered to pay a fine of 50,000 CFA francs (US$100) each and 500,000 CFA francs (US$1,000) in damages. The charges stemmed from a 29 September 2008 editorial by Sani raising questions about management at the country’s electricity supplier, NIGELEC..Aksar and Sani were questioned by police on 12 November 2008 and the next day appeared in court, where they were charged and detained, held for six days and then released pending appeal. Sani was charged as the author of the piece and Aksar as the editor. A date for the appeal had not been set.
Other charges: Aksar also faces separate criminal charges of “divulging national security secrets” after L’Evènement published a story in July 2008 linking an army colonel to a weapons cache and possible coup attempt; the colonel was reportedly arrested the following month. Aksar was arrested and detained incommunicado by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) from 30 July to 1 August 2008 before being charged and released.
Background: In 2007, L’Evènement was one of three newspapers charged with publishing false information which could affect the honour of the Libyan President Colonel Mouammar Gaddafi. No further news as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
Ibrahim MANZO DIALLO: publisher for the weekly privately-owned newspaper Aïr Info , is on trial for alleged links with an armed rebel group. Manzo was arrested at an airport on 9 October 2007, when he was about to travel to France. He was held by the General Directorate for External Security (the Niger foreign intelligence agency), and interrogated by the police, on suspicion of links with Radio France Internationale (RFI). RFI was temporarily suspended from broadcasting in Niger in July 2007 for its reporting on the country’s Tuareg rebellion. On 29 October 2007, Manzo was charged with criminal association on the basis of his alleged links with the Niger People’s Movement for Justice (MNJ), a rebel group which operates in the northern area of Niger, and was placed in pre-trial detention in Agadez prison. A few months earlier, on 12 July 2007, Manzo had been questioned and briefly detained at the headquarters of the National Gendarmerie. Security agents questioned him for an hour, and released him once they had verified registration papers to re-launch his newspaper, which had been suspended. On 6 February 2008, an appeal court in Zinder, southern Niger, granted Manzo bail after almost four months in prison. As of the end of 2008 no trial date had been set. No further information as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
Ibrahim SOULEY and Soumana Idrissa MAIGA:managing editor and founder respectively, of the bi-monthly publication L’Enquêteur, were detained for several days for investigation on 4 and 5 December 2007 respectively, after the Minister of Economy and Finance filed a libel complaint against the newspaper. On 7 December 2007, both appeared before the Niamey Special Magistrates Court and were released on bail. The charges stem from articles published on 19 November 2007 alleging that the Minister was involved in granting state projects illegally and encouraging mismanagement of public finances. On 8 February 2008, Souley and Maiga were both sentenced to one month in jail, and ordered to pay a symbolic fine of 40,000 Francs (around 60 Euros) each to the Minister. They are appealing the decision. No further information as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update. [RAN 09/08]
*Ali SOUMANA: publisher of the independent Niamey-based weekly newspaper Le Courrier, is on trial for defamation and “publishing false information”. Soumana was arrested on 6 April 2009 and detained at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) following a defamation complaint brought against him by the managing director of the state-owned water company, Eau du Niger (SPEN). The charges apparently stem from a 26 March article accusing the SPEN head of engaging in “dirty business deals” with a Chinese geo-engineering company, which, according to Le Courrier claimed, was corrupt and had been blacklisted by the World Bank. The article reportedly also included a remark about the degree of power and influence gained by Prime Minister Seini Oumarou since he took office. Soumana was released on 7 April, after appearing before the state prosecutor and was later charged with two counts of defamation and “publishing false information”.
Killed: official investigation ongoing
Paul Abayomi OGUNDEJI: reporter and a member of the editorial board of the Lagos daily newspaper ThisDay, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Lagos on 17 August 2008. According to initial police reports, Ogundeji was ambushed by armed men while driving home and was shot when he refused to stop and open his car door. Nothing was removed from his car. The police later claimed that Ogundeji had ignored orders to stop at a police checkpoint and had been shot as a result. The autopsy report reportedly stated that he had been “professionally” shot from behind.
Background: Ogundeji, who had recently joined the editorial board of ThisDay, had previously worked for a number of other newspapers, including The Guardian, The Punch and the now defunct Comet. He was also chief press secretary to former Lagos state deputy governor Femi Pedro. Godwin Agbroko, ThisDay’s former editorial board chairman, was also shot dead as he was returning home from the newspaper’s offices on 22 December 2006. His killers have yet to be found.
Investigation: In January 2009, it was reported that the judicial police had taken over the investigation. As of early July 2009, the murder had yet to be solved and a coroner’s inquest was ongoing. On 9 July 2009, an arrest warrant was reportedly issued for Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Johnson Adeniken, who supervised the initial investigations into Ogundeji’s murder, for failing to obey court orders. The week before a key witness had reportedly been murdered.
Mallam Saidu Sarki USMAN: former political editor of the Abujabased daily newspaper Leadership, was remanded into prison custody by a court in Minna, the capital of Niger state, on 20 June 2008. Usman was accused of publishing an “injurious falsehood” against Alhaji Isa Mohammed, a former senator representing Niger South constituency. On 27 June 2008 it was reported that Usman had been granted bail. No further news as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
*Olusola FABIYI: the Abuja Chief Correspondent of the Lagos-based independent daily newspaper The Punch, was detained at the police headquarters in Abuja on 25 March 2009 for refusing to write a statement on the source of a story on an alleged assassination plot. In the story, published on 23 March 2009, the opposition party Action Congress (AC) alerted the public to an alleged plot to assassinate a former Lagos State governor by an unnamed serving governor of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Fabiyi co-authored the article with two other journalists, Mudiga Affe and Olalekan Adetayo. Following publication of the story, six governors in North-Central Nigeria reportedly petitioned President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and the Inspector General of Police, over the allegation that one of them, not named, was behind the assassination plot. Fabiyi had gone to the Police Headquarters to follow up and update the initial news story when he was detained and questioned about his sources. According to a statement by the newspaper’s editor, Fabiyi told the police that he wrote the story on the basis of an AC statement and a conversation with the PDP leadership. He refused to write a statement because a lawyer was not present and he had not been officially summonsed by the police. He was detained but released on bail later the same day, not having been charged with any offence.
*Akin ORIMOLADE: Abuja bureau chief of the newspaper National Life, was detained for a week in March 2009 for allegedly defaming the governor of Bayelsa State. Orimolade was arrested in Abuja on 17 March. He asked to see an arrest warrant but his request was refused. He was taken to Yenogoa in Bayelsa State, where he appeared in court the following day. Orimolade was charged with criminal defamation of the Bayelsa State governor in relation to a 31 January story. National Life editor-in-chief Louis Odion and the managing editor Waheed Odusile were also charged in absentia. Orimolade was released on 24 March after the charges were dropped.
Kidnapped – released
*Elechi AMADI: renowned novelist, was kidnapped by gunmen at his home on the outskirts of Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta on 5 January 2009 and released the next day. The three men reportedly came to Amadi’s house, introduced themselves in the local Ikwerre language and were invited in by Amadi’s wife. When it emerged that they were kidnappers, Amadi (74) followed them to their cars without resistance. No family members were injured during the kidnapping. The police were immediately alerted but failed to apprehend the kidnappers. Almost 24 hours after his abduction, Amadi was reportedly set free in the bush not far from his village and walked home. According to a spokesperson of the Joint Military Taskforce, no ransom was paid. The reason for the abduction is not known, although at the time some of his family members suspected it was linked to his chairmanship of the state scholarship board, where Amadi has reportedly taken a strong stand against corruption.
Background: A number of prominent people and family members of public office holders had been abducted in the oil-producing Niger Delta region recent months and released following the payment of ransoms. In an interview in October 2008, Amadi had condemned militant violence in the Niger Delta.
Publications: Amadi has published three novels including The Great Ponds, The Slave and The Concubine, which became one of the classics of African literature. He won international fame during the 1960s and 1970s for his depictions of rural village life, customs and beliefs in Africa before it came into contact with the West.
*Mallam Tukur MAMUeditor of the Kaduna-based weekly newspaper Desert Herald, reportedly went into hiding on 23 June 2009 after receiving several phone messages that day warning that the governor of Kano State would “personally take care of (him)” if he continued to publish articles that “harm the government’s interests.” Mamu had recently run stories about the murder of a Koranic studies teacher at the Almuntada Mosque in Dorayi in April 2007. Other journalists who have written about the killing have also been threatened.
*Janet MBA (f): editor of the magazine The Scroll in Arepo in Ogun State, narrowly escaped attack when 15 armed men burst into her apartment block in a journalists’ neighbourhood known as “Journalists’ Village”, early in the morning of 15 January 2009. The men arrived in the block and forced neighbours to tell them where Mba lived. However Mba managed to call the police before the men reached her home. The assailants fled after an exchange of fire with Lagos State police and before they could be identified. An investigation into the attack was opened.
*Segun JAMES: correspondent in Bayelsa State for the national newspaper Thisday. On 4 June 2009, it was reported that James had fled Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, and gone into hiding after finding out he was being pursued by certain unknown individuals. On 27 May, some people who did not identify themselves made several visits to Thisday’s offices in Yenagoa asking where James was. The previous day James had published an article on the arrest of Ken Niweigha, who was allegedly behind the murder of 12 policemen in 1999. Niweigha is said to be the brother of the Bayelsa State governor’s current aide-de-camp, although the governor has reportedly denied this.
Jerome IMEIME: editor of the privately-owned weekly Events, based in Uyo in south-eastern Nigeria, was arrested by the State Security Service on 10 October 2007. His arrest is thought to have been linked to his critical reporting on a local state governor, specifically the alleged misuse of funds for an electoral campaign, and alleged corruption in the awarding of contracts for road construction. He was held for over two weeks and charged with sedition on 16 October 2007. After numerous adjournments, the hearing was set for 5 February 2008. According to PEN’s sources, the charges have been dropped - case closed.
Bonaventure BIZUMUREMYI: editor of the independent weekly Umuco (previously listed as ‘Disappeared’), is reportedly facing criminal defamation charges for “insulting the president”. The editor reportedly went into hiding on 18 March 2008, a day before a police raid on his residence in Kigali. On 19 March, police surrounded Bizumuremyi’s home, seized documents, compact discs and mobile phones and questioned Bizumuremyi’s mother and sister about his whereabouts. On 20 March, a police spokesman reportedly went on air on Radio Rwanda to call on citizens to help security services track down Bizumuremyi. The defamation charges reportedly stem from three articles in the 12 March 2008 edition of the newspaper that were critical of national leaders. One editorial on allegations of genocide involving President Paul Kagame claimed he would face an international criminal court and be forced to live in exile or commit suicide “like Adolf Hitler”, and carried a picture of Kagame and the German dictator side by side. The other articles criticized senior military officials and ruling party members’ alleged roles in the deaths of some Spanish priests. The High Press Council had reportedly suspended Bizumuremyi’s press card for six months and recommended that his newspaper be suspended for one year. Bizumuremyi previously went into hiding on 5 August 2006 following a police summons and official criticism of articles that were highly critical of President Kagame and of Rwanda’s judicial system. As of 4 December 2008, Bizumuremyi was reportedly still in hiding. No further information as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
Abdou Latif COULIBALY: author and journalist, is on trial for defamation following the publication of his book revealing alleged embezzlement of funds in the state-owned national lottery. The lottery and some employees are now suing him for defamation and public slander. The trial started on 11 September 2007 but proceedings were postponed until 25 January 2008. Coulibaly has previously got into trouble over others books, including death threats and publications blocked at customs, and the restricted circulation of his books within Senegal.
New information: As of 3 June 2009, the trial was ongoing, with the next hearing reportedly scheduled for 7 July.
*Pape Samba DIARRA and Mame Seye DIOP: respectively editor and journalist for the weekly Weekend Magazine, were reportedly sentenced to three months in prison and a 10 million CFA (US$20,000) fine on 21 June 2009 for “public slander” of the deputy speaker of the Senegalese parliament. The charges stemmed from an article that was allegedly critical of the love life of the politician, who is a member of the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party. The journalists appealed the conviction and were released until the appeal is heard.
El Malick SECK:editor of the Dakar daily 24 Heures Chrono, served eight months of a three-year sentence for offending the head of state, publishing false news and threatening public order before being pardoned and released in April 2009. Seck was arrested on 28 August 2008 and on 12 September 2008 was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of offending the head of state, publishing false news and threatening public order. The charges reportedly stemmed from an editorial that alleged that President Wade and his son Karim, a special adviser, were involved in laundering money stolen from a bank in the Ivory Coast. Seck was denied bail pending an appeal. On 23 December 2008, he was sentenced to a further six months in prison term for defaming Interior Minister Sheikh Tidiane Sy in an article. In yet another defamation case against Seck and 24 Heures Chrono reporter Maké Dagnokho brought by the Ministry of Culture’s secretary general the two were each sentenced to a one-year suspended prison term and a FCFA 250,000 fine. Seck was reportedly released on 24 April 2009 following a presidential pardon. He had spent eight months in prison. [RAN 51/08 and update]
Pape Amadou GAYE: publisher of the newspaper Le courier du jour, based in Dakar, was arrested by plainclothes police officers on 1 November 2007 and taken to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Division (DIC). On 6 November 2007, he was charged with ‘insulting the president, action liable to threaten State security and action liable to result in disobedience by the army’. The charges are reportedly linked to an editorial on the rise of prices and social tension in rural areas of Senegal, which raised questions about the role of the army in the crisis. Gaye was then placed in pre-trial detention. He was released on 8 November 2007 pending trial. He reportedly faced five to 10 years in jail if convicted. As of 31 December 2007, the charges stood. No further news as of 30 June 2009 – case closed.
Killed: official investigation ongoing
Harry YANSANEH: acting editor of the daily For Di People, died of kidney problems in hospital on 27 July 2005. His death was apparently a direct result of an assault he suffered on 10 May 2005. In a letter that Yansaneh (34) sent before his death to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), he explicitly accused Member of Parliament Dr Fatmata Hassan of ordering the 10 May attack. According to Yansaneh, one of Hassan’s sons threatened him and vandalised the For Di People office – of which Hassan was reportedly the landlady – in the early evening of 10 May 2005. When the editor was on his way to the police station to make an official complaint about the incident, he claimed he was set upon by a group including Hassan’s two sons. Yansaneh also accused Hassan herself of being present during the attack. The motives for the assault appear to be Hassan’s apparent desire to evict For Di People from their offices, coupled with the Member of Parliament’s dislike of the newspaper’s criticism of the government. Yansaneh took over the editorship of For Di People in October 2004, when former editor Paul Kamara was imprisoned for “seditious libel”. After the attack, Hassan’s sons are alleged to have returned to London, UK, where they are apparently resident.
Investigation: A coroner’s inquest into the killing of Harry Yansaneh announced its findings on 26 August 2005, concluding that the killing amounted to “involuntary manslaughter”. The coroner issued arrest warrants the same day against suspects Fatmata Hassan, three of her children and two others. In August 2006, the director of public prosecution requested the extradition of Hassan’s three children from the UK following media attention centring on Yansaneh on the anniversary of his death. On 18 January 2007, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was reportedly instructed to officially request the British Government to extradite Hassan’s children, Ahmed Komeh, Bai Bureh Komeh and Aminata Komeh, from the UK. According to Amnesty International, the Minister of Justice stated in February 2008 that he would not pursue charges of manslaughter in the case. As of March 2009, the charges against Hassan’s children had been reduced to assault and battery. They are reportedly still living in the UK. No further information as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking to confirm whether or not the investigation is ongoing.
*Sylvia BLYDEN (f): publisher and editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Awareness Times, is on trial for “publishing false information” after publishing an article alluding to President Ernest Bai Koroma’s alleged extramarital affairs. The story in question, published on 12 May 2009, claimed that the President had attempted to pass one of his allegedly numerous girlfriends off as the first lady to the people of Kailahun, about 350 kilometres from the capital, Freetown. Blyden was contacted by the police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) the same day requesting her to provide documentary evidence to substantiate her claims. CID personnel also searched the newspaper offices and confiscated unspecified documents. Blyden reportedly went into hiding later that day after receiving multiple death threats on her mobile phone. However she reportedly turned herself into Freetown police on 20 May and was charged with “publishing false information” on the basis of the aforementioned article. On 21 May 2009, she was granted bail of 50 million leones (approx. US$16,000). As of 30 June, the trial was ongoing.
Emmanuel Saffa ABDULAI and John Baimba SESAY: respectively director and information officer at media advocacy group the Society for Democratic Initiatives (SDI), have reportedly been receiving death threats since October 2008. They received threatening anonymous phone calls on an almost daily basis after publishing a report on press conditions on 30 September 2008 which attracted widespread news coverage. The callers reportedly specifically cited the report and in some calls threatened to kill Abdulai’s mother, who had recently come to the capital, Freetown, for medical treatment. SDI lodged a complaint with the police.
Background: SDI’s report, entitled “The State of the Sierra Leone Media: A Year of Velvet Glove,” praised developments in press freedom in the country but also identified impunity in attacks against journalists and criminal defamation laws as problems. SDI helped to draft Sierra Leone’s Freedom of Information bill and helped prepare a lawsuit filed with the Supreme Court in February 2008 seeking to overturn the 1965 Public Order Act, a colonial criminal libel law.
New information: Abdulai reportedly received a further death threat on 6 February 2009. An anonymous email accused him of providing government opponents with a platform to “preach hate politics” on his online Freedom of Information Forum and warned him to close the website. Abdulai also said he had been robbed twice in less than two months.
*David JABATI: editor of Freetown-based independent newspaper The Exclusive, was reportedly assaulted on 13 March 2008 by supporters of the ruling All People’s Congress Party (APC) at the headquarters of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). Jabati, who had gone to the SLPP headquarters to cover a clash between the two main political parties, was accused by young APC supporters of being an SLPP supporter. They then attacked Jabati, tearing his clothes and stealing two mobile phones and a large amount of cash. The incident ended when the police arrived. Jabati reported the assault to the authorities.
*Sitta TURAY: editor-in-chief of the Freetown-based bi-weekly newspaper New People, was reportedly attacked by two members of the ruling All People’s Congress Party (APC) on 14 May 2009 for allegedly defaming President Ernest Bai Koroma. On that day two men, a presidential photographer and another known APC supporter, came to Turay’s office and accused him of using his newspaper to serve the opposition’s interests by writing articles defaming the President. They then stabbed Turay in the head. The editor was hospitalized and later went into hiding for fear of further attacks. The attack was widely condemned and the Minister of Information reportedly assured Turay that he would receive protection if he came out of hiding.
Jonathan LEIGH: editor of The Independent Observer, was charged with libel under the 1965 Public Order Act in early February 2008 for a story on the Minister of Aviation, who allegedly used his office to obtain property. On 15 February 2008, Leigh was briefly arrested, and released on bail. In February 2009 it was reported that the case had been dropped following intervention by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists. Case closed.
*Abdullahi Hassan DARWISH: journalist for the newspaper Ogaal and stringer for the Qaran News website, based in Somaliland, was arrested on 14 April 2009 following a complaint by the mayor of Erigabo. On 25 April, Darwish was found guilty of spreading “unsubstantiated information” about corruption in the management of the Erigabo water agency and about the mayor’s alleged use of the agency for political ends. Darwish was sentenced to one year in prison, banned from working as a journalist for six months and fined 400,000 Somaliland shillings (approx. US$60). He had no legal representation. However, on 26 April Darwish was reportedly freed after his family paid to convert the prison sentence into a release.
*Jama Ayanle FEYTE: reporter for various news websites including Laasqoray.com and Dayniile.com as well as for a radio station, was arrested in Bosaso, Puntland, on 26 March 2009 and charged with criminal defamation and “publishing false information”. The charges appear to have stemmed from some articles alleging that the President of Puntland was involved in illegal activities such as piracy, counterfeit money and arms running. Feyte (20), who is known for his coverage of issues such as piracy, human trafficking and rural development, denied the charges and that he was the author of the articles presented as evidence. There were suggestions that the Puntland Interior Minister may have ordered the arrest. It is understood that at the time of his arrest Feyte had recently published an article on the alleged transfer of loyalties of a local commander from the Puntland to Somaliland Authorities, and the Minister may have erroneously believed that he was the subject of the article. Feyte was held incommunicado for four days before being sentenced to two years in prison on 30 March after a summary trial which neither his lawyer nor his family were allowed to attend. He was then taken to Bosaso central prison. An appeal was lodged on 2 April. Feyte was released on 15 April following a presidential pardon, having been detained for 20 days.
Further harassment: Feyte has continued to suffer harassment since his release. On 17 April, two men in police uniform reportedly threatened to send him back to prison if he did not stop practicing journalism. On 19 April, Feyte’s younger brother was reportedly arrested after denouncing Feyte’s imprisonment in a mosque and was accused of attempting to kill a police officer in revenge, a charge which Feyte claims is trumped up. Feyte was reportedly also receiving anonymous death threats by telephone. He believed he was being monitored and, fearing for his safety, went gone into hiding. He is believed to have left the country.
Background: Laasqoray.com reportedly received threats from politicians and a foreign mining company in 2006 after Feyte reported on inter-clan fighting and displacement of people in an area where the mining company was due to operate.
*Mohamed Abdi GULED (“Urad”): editor of the weekly newspaper Yool, based in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, was arrested on 26 February 2009 and held at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). The reason for his arrest was thought to be a 24 February report on alleged plots to murder parliamentarians, opposition party leaders and traditional chiefs. The police did not produce a court order for Guled’s arrest, which is reportedly illegal under Somaliland law. On 17 March, Guled was sentenced to five months in prison on charges of operating an unregistered newspaper and publishing fabricated information. However, he was released on 20 March, after payment of 1 million Somaliland shillings (approx. 530 Euros) in bail.
Nhial BOL: editor of The Citizen newspaper, is reportedly facing criminal defamation charges for a 7 October 2008 article about corruption in the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development of the government of Southern Sudan. The article in question compared the salaries of officials at the ministry to the equivalent salaries in Khartoum, and found that salaries were higher in the south. Bol was arrested in Juba, the regional capital of Southern Sudan, on 11 October and detained until 15 October, when he was released on bail. A date for the trial had yet to set. No further news as of 30 June 2009; PEN is seeking an update.
Background: The Citizen was suspended on 2 September 2008 after the editor-in-chief refused an order from the National Publication and Press Council to dismiss the paper’s managing editor, Izzadine Abdul-Rasoul, because he was from Darfur. The newspaper resumed publication on 27 September.
*Alhaj WARRAG: editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Ajras El-Hurriyya, was detained for four days in March 2009 in relation to a criminal defamation lawsuit against him dating back to 2007. Warrag was arrested on 19 March after announcing that he planned to travel to Germany. He was taken to prison and told that he would not be released until he had fulfilled his court obligations, including paying a fine. According to Warrag, he had previously been told by the court authorities that there was no immediate need to complete the process. Warrag was released on 23 March and was subsequently able to travel to Germany. He and his staff have reportedly been subject to frequent harassment and intimidation by government agents, and the newspaper has been regularly censored by the authorities.
Mohamed Taha Mohamed AHMED: editor-in-chief of the daily Al Wifaq, was murdered on 6 September 2006 after being put on trial for “insulting the prophet Mohamed”. His alleged killers were executed on 13 April 2009.
Trial: Ahmed was charged with “insulting the prophet Mohamed” following an article in Al-Wifaq about a 15th Century Islamic manuscript which posits the theory that the prophet Mohamed’s father was not Abdallah but a man named Abdel Lat. Ahmed’s trial opened on 4 May 2005 and prompted demonstrations from thousands of people in Khartoum calling for him to be put to death. The charges against Ahmed were later quietly dropped, although his paper was closed for three months and he was fined 8 million Sudanese pounds (US$3,200).
Killing: On 6 September 2006, Ahmed was abducted from his home by an unknown group of armed men and killed.
Investigation: An investigation into the death was launched but although suspicion fell on Sudan’s hardline Islamist groups, nobody claimed responsibility for the killing. A number of suspects were reportedly arrested but the government has banned all reporting on the case. Some journalists were questioned in the course of the investigation, with one reporter for Al-Rai al-Aam being held for two weeks at the end of October 2006 and another for Al-Sahafa held for 12 days in December 2006. A daily newspaper, Al Sudani, which violated the ban on publication of the case, was indefinitely suspended in February 2007 and the paper’s publisher and editor briefly imprisoned in May 2007.
Trial of suspects: On 11 November 2007 it was reported that 10 people had been convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. They were mostly from the war-torn region of Darfur. The court had originally detained nine others but released them for lack of evidence. The defence lawyer reportedly called the ruling “weak and hasty”, saying that it had relied on confessions extracted under torture, mistreatment and use of violence and had failed to take into account statements made by the accused. All 10 men appealed their sentence. On 8 March 2008 the appeal was rejected. On 26 August 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for nine of the 10 defendants and amended the charges against the other from murder to harbouring offenders. In November 2008, the Constitutional Court, the final recourse, ordered a stay of execution of the death penalty against Ahmed’s alleged killers pending the outcome of the final appeal.
Execution of suspects: The nine men convicted of Ahmed’s murder were executed on 13 April 2009. They were reportedly beheaded in a prison in Khartoum in front of Ahmed’s relatives. Amnesty International condemned the conviction and executions, saying that the confessions had been extracted under torture and had been retracted in court. Case closed.
Sid Ahmed KHALIFA and Adil Sid AHMED: editor-in-chief an deputy editor of the daily Al-Watan, were summoned and questioned overnight on 18 February 2008. The summons stemmed from an article on changes in the high ranks of the police force. Both men were released the following day. The Office of the Prosecutor reportedly opened a file against them for libel and false reporting. On 19 February 2008, Mustafa Abu al-Azayim, editor of the daily Akhir Lahza; Kamal Hassan Bakhiet, editor of Al-Ra’y al-Aam; and Mohamed Sid Ahmed, managing editor of Al-Wifaq, were also summoned to the Prosecutor’s office for questioning on similar articles. No further information as of 30 June 2009 – case closed due to lack of information.
Hussein KHOGALI: editor of the daily newspaper Alwan, was reportedly charged with “violating state security” in May 2008 on the grounds that he had published confidential military information. The charges appear to be linked to a raid on the company that publishes and prints Alwan on 14 May by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), as a result of which all property was confiscated and the company offices and newspaper were closed down indefinitely. NISS reportedly said that it took these measures under articles 6 and 8 of the National Security Forces Act, which states that it is responsible for “maintaining Sudan’s security and preserving its unity” and empowers it to “place persons in custody and seize property.” Censorship in Sudan had reportedly been stepped up following armed attacks by the Justice and Equality Movement near Khartoum on 10 May 2008. No further information as of 30 June 2009 - case closed due to lack of information.
Bheki MAKHUBU: editor of the privately-owned magazine The Nation, was sued by Member of Parliament Marwick Khumalo for defamation of character on 9 July 2007. The charges are based on an article by Makhubu published in the magazine in June 2007, which accused Khumalo and his business associates of trying to win a pharmaceutical tender through corrupt means. As of 30 June 2009, the matter was still before the court and a trial date had not been set.
*Mfomfo NKAMBULE: columnist for the independent newspaper Times of Swaziland, was reportedly harassed by the authorities in January 2009 for his articles critical of the monarch. On 5 January, Nkambule, who is an ex-cabinet minister and Member of Parliament and now an opposition politician, was interrogated by senior policemen about his weekly column, which is often critical of the King Mswati III, reportedly the world’s last remaining absolute monarchy, and his leadership..The head of the intelligence unit warned Nkambule that his articles could incite people to revolt against the king and were therefore a security threat. He told Nkambule to stop criticizing the monarch or risk being prosecuted. Following subsequent questioning by a traditional leader, Nkambule, in his 12 January column, publicly apologised to the king for his recent critical articles. However, on 24 January, Nkambule, who, in accordance with traditional custom, belongs to a group known as the King’s regiment, was summoned by fellow regiment members to one of the royal palaces and again warned to stop his attacks on the King. He was reminded that as a member of the traditional regiment he is supposed to be loyal to the King and the status quo, and told that he would have to choose between being a member of the regiment and pursuing his political career. Following the meeting, Nkambule said that he was under significant pressure and that he might have to discontinue his weekly column.
*Lucien Djossou MESSAN: managing editor of the independent newspaper Le Combat du Peuple, was arrested and briefly detained at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in the Togolese capital Lomé on 23 March 2009. The arrest reportedly took place on the orders of the Minister of Security and Civil Protection. That day Le Combat du Peuple, which has frequently exposed the minister’s alleged excesses, had published an article by Messan accusing the minister of violating the rights of Togolese citizens and foreigners in Togo. Messan was detained for a few hours before being released without charge.
*Patrick OTIM:freelance journalist for the government vernacular newspaper Rupiny and a radio station in Gulu District, northern Uganda, is on trial for treason. Otim was reportedly arrested by plainclothes policemen from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) along with seven supporters of opposition political parties in May 2009, while local council by-elections were taking place. He was held incommunicado without charge for more than four weeks, during which time officials denied that Otim was in government custody. The journalist finally appeared in court on 15 June in response to a habeas corpus application filed by human rights lawyers. He was charged with treason, along with 10 others, for allegedly forming an armed rebel movement named the Popular Pacific Front (PFP) with the aim of overthrowing the government. The accused were remanded in custody and sent to Luzira Prison in the capital Kampala. As of late June, the government was reportedly yet to produce any evidence to back up the charges but it claims to have seized weapons and military equipment related to the alleged crime. Two of the 10 other defendants are reportedly former members of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). Treason is a capital offence in Uganda.
Joachim BUWEMBO and Bernard TABAIRE: managing editors of the Daily Monitor, were charged with defaming the Inspector General of Government on 28 January 2008. The charges are based on a 17 August 2007 article on alleged irregular salary claims made by the official. Three other Daily Monitor journalists, news editor Robert Musaka, chief parliament reporter Emmanuel Gyezaho and senior reporter Angelo Izama were also named in the law suit. All five were released on bail pending trial.
New information: In June 2009, it was reported that Buwembo, Mukasa, Tabaire and Gyezaho had unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of Section 179 of Uganda’s Penal Code Act on criminal defamation before Uganda’s Constitutional Court. Their petition was unanimously dismissed. The journalists said they would take the petition to the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court. They are free on “police bond”, which requires them to report to police or a magistrate periodically. Bernard Tabaire is also on trial for sedition; while Izama too is facing other charges (see separate entries below).
Honorary Member (Bernard Tabaire): English PEN. Angelo IZAMA, Daniel KALINAKI and Grace MATSIKO: Kalinaki is managing editor of the Daily Monitor; Izama and Matsiko are senior reporters. On 2 January 2009 it was reported that all three had been charged by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of publishing materials prejudicial to national security and released on bail. They were ordered to report back to CID on 5 January 2009 to be taken to court. The charges stem from a 28 December 2008 piece about Operation Lightening Thunder, a joint state operation in the DRC to capture Lord’s Resistance Army rebels. The journalists reportedly face up to seven years’ imprisonment if convicted. As of 30 June 2009, the case was ongoing and was being handled by the Media Offences Department, created within the Ugandan police force in late 2008. Izama is also on trial for criminal defamation (see entry above).
Andrew MWENDA, Odobo BICHACHI and John NJOROGE: publisher/ political journalist, consulting editor and journalist respectively for bimonthly news magazine The Independent, have been charged with sedition and publication of false news. Mwenda, Bichachi and Njoroge were arrested during a Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) raid on Mwenda’s home and the newspaper’s offices on 26 April 2008, during which documents and journalistic equipment were seized. The raid and arrests were reportedly linked to two stories published by The Independent that week: one an interview that touched on the alleged use of torture by Ugandan military intelligence in secret government-run detention centres and implicated top officials in atrocities during Uganda’s civil war with the Lord’s Resistance Army; the other an editorial alleging unrest in the army following the imprisonment of the former army chief for corruption. The three journalists were taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and were released on bail a few hours later. On 30 May 2008, it was reported that the High Court had issued a stay on the case earlier that month. Mwenda is well known for his critical reporting and was reportedly already fighting numerous counts of “sedition” and “promoting sectarianism” in relation to his journalism, most linked to commentary aired on Mwenda’s former political radio talk show. It has been reported that Mwenda could spend up to 75 years in jail if convicted. On 20 November 2008, Mwenda and Bichachi received police summons for questioning about coverage deemed “prejudicial” to state security. Mwenda is now reporting facing a total of 21 criminal charges. He has challenged the constitutionality of the sedition charges in court. Trial ongoing as of 30 June 2009.
Ssemujju Ibrahim NGANDA: investigative journalist and political editor for The Weekly Observer. In October 2008 it was reported that Nganda had been charged with “promoting sectarianism” and “incitement to violence” for the second time in two years. The journalist was arrested and interrogated by Criminal Investigation Department (CID) detectives at least three times in October 2008. He has reportedly been accused of mobilizing Baganda, the biggest ethnic group critical of the current government, and of criticising President Yoweri Museveni in talk shows for the alleged high rates of human rights violations during his administration. If convicted, Nganda could face up to five years in prison for promoting sectarianism and up to three years for incitement to violence. Nganda was accused of the same charges in June 2006 for writing an article that criticized government persecution of opposition leader Kizza Besigye. The trial was halted as the offence is being challenged in Uganda’s Constitutional Court, but the case has not been dropped.
New information: As of 30 June 2009, the trial was still halted pending the Constitutional Court’s decision. Obsever editor James Tumusiime is also reportedly named in the case. Both men have been reporting to the police on a regular basis since 2007 as part of their bail conditions.
Bernard TABAIRE, Henry OCHIENG and Chris OBORE: managing editor, Sunday editor and journalist respectively for the newspaper Daily Monitor, were charged with sedition on 30 September 2007. The charges stemmed from a story entitled ‘Soldiers train to take police jobs’, in which it was alleged that soldiers were secretly trained as policemen in order to have the police force under military control. The three were summoned to the police on 1 October 2007 and released on bail the same day. The charges reportedly stood as of February 2008. As of 30 June 2009, the trial had been put on hold pending a constitutional court interpretation on a sedition petition filed by Andrew Mwenda of The Independent (see entry above). Bernard Tabaire is also on trial for criminal defamation (see also case above). He is an Honorary Member of English PEN.
*Richard TUSIIME and Francis MUTAZINDWA: editor-in-chief and news editor of the tabloid newspaper Red Pepper, are on trial for allegedly defaming the Libyan President, Col. Muammar Gadaffi. The charges stem from a series of articles in February 2009 alleging that President Gadaffi was having an adulterous relationship with Best Kemigisha, the Queen Mother of King Oyo Nyimba of Tooro Kingdom (Tooro is one of the kingdoms that merged to form Uganda at independenceand has a ceremonial traditional ruler). The lawsuit was brought by President Gadaffi but was subsequently taken over by the Ugandan Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). On 18 February, Tusiime and Mutazindwa were charged with six counts of criminal defamation of a foreign prince under section 53 of the Ugandan Penal Code. They denied the charges and were released on bail. If convicted, they reportedly face up to two years in prison. President Gadaffi is reportedly also seeking millions of dollars in damages. Red Pepper often faces lawsuits due to its coverage of the lifestyles of celebrities and public officials. The case was ongoing as of 30 June 2009.
*Vincent KAHIYA and Constantine CHIMAKURE (f), editors of the Zimbabwe Independent, are on trial for allegedly undermining public confidence in law enforcement agents. They were arrested on 11 May 2009 when they presented themselves at the Law and Order Section of Harare Central police station after the police came looking for them at the newspaper offices on 9 May. Kahiya and Chimakure were detained overnight and released on bail the next day. They are charged with publishing or communicating a statement wholly or with the intention of undermining public confidence in law enforcement agents, under Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The charges reportedly stem from an 8 May story which named members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and police who were allegedly involved in the abduction of human rights and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists in 2008, including freelance journalist Shadreck Andrisson Manyere. On 16 June, the editors applied for a referral to the Supreme Court where they seek to challenge the constitutionality of the section of the Criminal Code under which they are charged. The matter was postponed to 9 July to enable the prosecution to file its response. PEN monitoring.
*Brezhnev MALABA and Nduduzo TSHUMA: editor and reporter respectively for the state-owned newspaper The Buluwayo Chronicle, are on trial for criminal defamation and “publishing falsehoods” for an article alleging police corruption. The charges stem from a January 2009 story that alleged that senior police officials were involved in a Grain Marketing Board (GMB) scandal in which tonnes of maize was sold on the black market in Zimbabwe and Zambia. On 17 March, the two journalists were made to sign a police statement and on 26 March Tshuma said that they had not heard from the police since then. He suggested that the state may be reluctant to prosecute as there is no complainant in the matter.
Davison MARUZIVA: editor of the independent Sunday newspaper The Standard, is on trial for publishing a 20 April 2008 opinion piece by an opposition leader that was critical of the Mugabe regime. Maruziva was arrested at his office on 8 May 2008 and detained overnight before being charged the following day with ‘publishing false statements prejudicial to the state and contempt of court’. He was released on bail on 9 May 2008. The author of the piece in question, Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a breakaway faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was standing trial with Maruziva. In the offending article, Mutambara reportedly criticized the delay in the release of the 29 March 2008 presidential election results, the High Court’s dismissal of the MDC’s application to have the results released and security agents’ involvement in the elections. On 22 October 2008, Mutambara’s defence argued that the Magistrate’s court did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter and it should therefore be referred to a higher court. On 12 November the matter was referred to the Supreme Court, where it was still pending as of 30 June 2009.
*Julius CHINGONO: poet, was briefly detained by the police at a public event in Harare held by MISA-Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights to commemorate World Poetry Day on 21 March 2009. Chingono (63) performed an unpublished piece entitled ‘My uniform’ which described the advantage that uniformed policemen had over ordinary Zimbabweans during the food shortages when they reportedly jumped queues. The poet was detained by the police, who alleged that the poem was offensive, but was released after convincing them that the poem reflected past events.
*Tatenda CHITAGU (f): journalist for the independent newspaper The Mirror, based in Masvingo province, was reportedly threatened by the Zanu PF provincial chair following the publication of an article in March 2009 alleging that the official was involved in criminal activity. The chair, accompanied by Zanu PF youths, visited the newspaper offices and demanded to see Chitagu. When she was told that the journalist was not there, the chair reportedly threatened to take unspecified action against Chitagu which would leave her paralyzed. The offending article, published in the 27 March-2 April 2009 issue of The Mirror, had alleged that the chair’s party vehicle had been used as a getaway car in a series of armed robberies in Masvingo city and environs. It also alleged that the chair’s driver, who was later killed in a police shootout, had led the robberies. Chitagu filed a complaint with the police on 2 April and was summoned to court on 16 June. The Zanu PF official appeared in court to face charges of assault by threat, but the matter was deferred to 22 June because the defendant’s lawyer failed to turn up for the court proceedings.
Bright CHIBVURI: editor of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) magazine The Worker, was convicted of practicing journalism without accreditation in April 2008 despite reportedly having the correct accreditation. The case was reportedly closed on 28 February 2008 after it was discovered that Chibvuri did in fact have accreditation in the form of a press card. However, according to a subsequent report, Chibvuri was convicted as charged on 29 April 2008 and ordered to pay a fine of Z$2 billion (approx. US$6) or serve 10 days in prison. An appeal against the conviction and sentence was lodged with the High Court on 15 May 2008 on the basis that Chibvuri was in fact duly accredited in 2007. No further news as of 30 June 2009- case closed due to lack of information.
Frank CHIKOWORE: freelance journalist for publications including the private weekly The Standard, who also ran a popular blog covering the 2008 elections, was detained for over two weeks in April/May 2008 and subsequently charged with ‘public violence’ for covering a strike. In February 2009, it was reported that the case had been dismissed. [RAN 22/08 and update].