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Journalists forced to work under the heel of repressive regimes 0

The Committee to Protect Journalists last year named Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan and Burundi as the deadliest countries for journalists to work in. The New York-based NGO based its findings on deaths of journalists that had been reported in the affected countries.

Other African countries making the list of top five deadliest countries for journalists were Libya and DR Congo. Kenya entered this category following the death of Eldoret-based journalist John Kutuyi two years ago.

In another report released in May this year by Reporters Without Borders, Kenya, alongside South Africa and Nigeria, had not improved on its ranking. Tanzania led the pack followed by Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi at positions 83, 95, 112, 159 and 160 respectively.

Politics, corruption and crime top the list of causes of deteriorating press freedoms and deaths of journalists in the world in which Mexico tops the list of deadliest workstations.

Heightened political activity in the region due to forthcoming elections in Kenya and Rwanda are likely to trigger a ban on media outlets and a clampdown on journalists.

Ironfisted regimes

Although Tanzania is not in an election season, President John Magufuli’s desire to maintain a firm grip on key institutions, has seen a number of sanctions taken against the media by his administration.

Practising journalism in Tanzania is increasingly becoming a criminal undertaking if the number of closures and bans on media houses is anything to go by.

The ruling regime’s with ironfisted handling of the media started last year when it banned two radio stations for allegedly allowing callers to insult President Magufuli.

The row between the media and the government reached fever pitch with the raid on a private TV station by Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda, resulting in the sacking of Information Minister Nape Nnauye, who had condemned the assault.

In Kenya, a number of open files with journalists as the main suspects are gathering dust at the shelves of senior criminal investigation officers’ offices at the headquarters of Kenya’s criminal investigation department. Curiously, most journalists who have been arrested are never charged in court, save for bloggers, but their files remain open for purposes of intimidation.

With elections in August, journalists can only fasten their safety belts so that they can tell the story to a public that is thirsting for accurate and objective information.

Continue reading on The East African

By Erick Oduor, vice president of the Eastern African Journalists Association and secretary-general of the Kenya Union of Journalists.

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