Governments in the Horn of Africa seem to have decided in unison to turn up the heat on journalists.
Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi charged at least five journalists using anti-terror laws. A few days before, in the newly-independent South Sudan, journalists and their union, the South Sudan Union of Journalists, are struggling to ascertain the basic principles of press freedom. Eight Journalists working for the South Sudanese newspaper, The Juba Post, have been suspended from duty, in breach of labour laws, without pay, reportedly over financial difficulties. Despite the great optimism of the country’s rulers on independence day, the nascent print media is being stopped from printing in Khartoum, and has since then been printed either in Nairobi, but mostly in Kampala, incurring a huge increase in their print bill.
In the same week, Eritrea, the worst jailer of journalists in Africa, got special treatment at the hands of the European Parliament on the 10th anniversary of President Afeworki’s crackdown on journalists. On that day, 11 journalists were jailed and there are still no news of their whereabouts. The EU, for the first time, sharpened their language in their call for the journalists to be released forthwith. The resolution agreed at the session in Strasbourg referred to the Cotonou agreement, the bible of EU trade relations with its African partners, in particular its human rights clause – a sign that the EU, a major donor to Eritrea, is getting fed up with Eritrea continuing to violate its human rights obligations.