Pretoria – On 2 November, International Day for the End of Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, there are concerns that cases of physical attacks and harassment of media representatives in several African countries have increased since the Covid-19 closure measures came into force.
International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is by United Nations General Assembly Resolution is marked on November 2 to commemorate the assassination of French journalists in Mali in 2013 Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon.
The New York-based Committee to protect journalists (CPJ) has reported a plethora of incidents from various African countries in the months since the Covid-19 locking was applied.
It calls on the 16 heads of state to enter the region Southern African Development Community (SADC) to prioritize media freedom and security and to enable a critical exchange of political ideas.
In South Africa temper boiled over in the Central Free State agricultural town of Senekal in September when white farmers demanded that the police hand over to them three men suspected of killing a young foreman.
Journalists were attacked and threatened when they discussed this event, including the destruction of police property by the farmers.
Reporter forced to flee to Lesotho
The journalists came under further pressure at subsequent bail hearings when the ultra-left economic freedom fighters, led by Julius Malema, confronted the white farmers.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the South African authorities to guarantee the freedom and safety of journalists covered by the coronavirus epidemic and to punish anyone responsible for abusing reporters, including the newspaper editor who traveled to Lesotho in May fled after repeated police killings.
This is the first time in post-apartheid South Africa that a journalist has left the country with the intention of seeking asylum due to retaliation in connection with their reporting.
Paul Nthoba fled across the border for four days after being repeatedly assaulted by Ficksburg police in connection with his coverage of a lock-up operation.
He reported the violence to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, which oversees the police but received no protection.
Instead, he is charged with violating lock-in regulations and is sentenced to up to six months in prison under the law amended in April to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
South Africa slips in the RSF press freedom index
Rubber bullets were fired at reporter Azarrah Karrim while she was supervising a lock-up operation on the first day of the nationwide lock-up location in Johannesburg.
South Africa ranks 31st out of 180 countries in the 2020 press freedom index issued by RSF. It dropped from three places from 2018, which was the best position since 2004.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), journalists were attacked in South Africa in 1993 and 1994 and again in 2014.
The committee says four Southern journalists died doing their jobs between 1994 and 2020.
There have been isolated cases of journalists being harassed or intimidated and even wrongly arrested while reporting on corruption.
This treatment pales in comparison to the harsh actions of the apartheid regime against reporters.
The last confirmed recorded death of journalists in Africa was in the Central African Republic where a three-man Russian film crew of Krill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Orhan Dzhemel were ambushed in August 2018 on a lonely road.
The journalists investigated the activities of a Russian private military contractor known as the Wagner group in the mineral-rich country.
The Kremlin-affiliated group is also involved in Mozambique following an agreement between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Felipe Nyusi.
At least 200 Wagnerians have been deployed in Mozambique’s hostile Cabo del Gado province to deal with ISIS – linked jihadists terrorizing the local population.
The mercenary group finds it difficult to fulfill its mandate and the European Union has meanwhile agreed to provide training and material assistance to Mozambican authorities in this fight.
The Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) reports beatings and harassment by police and soldiers of journalists who discussed the developments in Cabo del Gado. There were also reports that media offices were set on fire.
Local journalist Ibraimo Mbaryco went missing in April after reporting that he was surrounded by soldiers. Authorities could not confirm reports that Mbaryco was dead.
Conditions have hardly improved Zimbabwe since the military ended Robert Mugabe’s 40-year presidency and installed Emmerson Mnangagwa three years ago.
Investigative Journalist Hopewell Chin’Ono was sentenced to six weeks in prison until September when he was granted bail to face charges of inciting public violence. by reporting official corruption. He was banned from disseminating information to the public via social media.
Eugene Dube is the youngest journalist to flee from eSwatini to neighboring South Africa. He works for the newspaper The Observer owned by King Mswati III.
The SADC is called upon to press authorities in the kingdom to stop harassment and intimidation of reporting journalists.
The CPJ appeals Madagascar authorities to release journalist Arphine Helsio, who is facing charges of spreading false news and incitement. Journalists face five years in prison for defaming President Andry Rajoelina.
Meanwhile, the journalist in Namibia employers and politicians because they muzzled the media and in defense of ‘the right to ask difficult questions’.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) supports the calls by journalists to be able to work in the public interest, free from pressure or self-control.
The IFJ’s Africa office is currently working with journalists in Namibia to develop a new trade union to fight for the labor and professional rights of the media workers in the country.