On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA), salutes all the champions of press freedom and freedom of expression across the world, especially those in Eastern Africa who have assumed tremendous risks associated with media work.
We wish to pay our deepest respect to those journalists in Eastern Africa who lost their lives in the line of duty; our thoughts go out to their families, friends and colleagues who will be missing them for the rest of their lives. Eighteen media practitioners were murdered in this region since last world press freedom day. Somalia, has in the past five years, topped the list of deadliest country for journalists in Africa.
We also extend our sympathy to all those journalists who have been attacked, threatened, or have had to seek refuge and exile in other countries because of their work. It is a disgrace that so many governments continue to jail journalists in this region for merely expressing themselves or practicing the profession of journalism.
Indeed, today cannot be a day of celebration while some 35 journalists remain in prison in our region. We express solidarity with the imprisoned journalists and their families and with those who show great courage in fulfilling the vital role of keeping citizens informed. Eritrea continues to be the worst jailer of journalists in our region.
EAJA is greatly concerned about the growing intolerance of press freedom across Eastern Africa. Governments in the region are failing to defend press freedom and the rights of journalists. In the name of security and counter-terrorism, media professionals have become the targets of State authorities using undemocratic and harsh laws.
We are concerned at the economic, legal, and judicial means used against news media organisations in this region resulting in prior restriction and self-censorship, that damage not only media itself, but most importantly, weaken citizens’ right to receive information.
We call on governments in Eastern Africa to live up to their obligation, commitments and imperative duty by ensuring that journalists are protected, that imprisoned journalists are freed and that murderers of journalists are apprehended and brought to justice. Eastern Africa governments must execute their mandatory responsibility of investigating and prosecuting violence against journalists.
Omar Faruk Osman
Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA)
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