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Freedom of expression organisations condemn media freedom and freedom of expression violations in eight African countries

(IFEX) - The following statement was issued by the Africa Caucus at the 11th General Meeting of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) in Baku, Azerbaijan, 13-18 June 2004, and is endorsed by the signatories below:

The following members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), an international network of freedom of expression organisations from around the world, are deeply concerned about ongoing media freedom and freedom of expression violations taking place in Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.


The media in Côte d'Ivoire operate under conditions of fear of attacks and intimidation by political thugs.

We call on the government of President Laurent Gbagbo to ensure the protection of all media against attacks. At the same time, we call on the media in Côte d'Ivoire to refrain from propagation of hate speech and to work to promote peace and unity in the country.


Although observers have noted an improvement in media freedom in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the government has resumed the arrest, harassment and imprisonment of journalists.

We urge the government to free all journalists presently in custody, to guarantee the right of journalists to practise freely and to desist from inciting ethnic hatred using public media.


Equatorial Guinea, under the rule of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, provides no space for the operation of independent media and continues to deny its citizens the right to access media of their choice.

We appeal to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema to respect the undertaking made by his country in ratifying international human rights and freedom of expression declarations.


For more than three years now, the government of Eritrea has been holding in detention without charge or trial about 18 journalists. The government has also banned the operation of independent media.

We call on the government of Eritrea to free all detained journalists and permit the existence and operation of independent, privately owned media in Eritrea.


The Ethiopian government, under the pretext of seeking accountability, has made it impossible for the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA) to function since November 2003. This follows years of harassment, intimidation, arrests and detention of the leadership of the EFJA.

We call on the Ethiopian government to permit the EFJA to function without restrictions and governmental constraints.


The civil war in Somalia has shattered the country's media and forced most of the journalists to flee into exile. A new generation of journalists works under very hostile conditions of daily threats of violent attacks, intimidation, blackmail, closure of media houses, property confiscation, and bans by the warlords.

We call on the provincial authorities in the self-declared 'autonomous' regions and the warlords to respect media freedom and leave the media to operate without threats and attacks on the lives of journalists and the media.


Swaziland is an absolute monarchy where King Mswati III rules by Royal Decree. Demonstrations, marches, pickets or any form of public protests or expression of contrary opinion are prohibited. The media are especially censored and journalists are indiscriminately arrested and prosecuted under a plethora of laws, including insult laws, sedition and criminal defamation.

We call on the rulers of Swaziland to march with the rest of Africa by reforming the laws to ensure that every Swazi enjoys freedom of expression and the right to access information of their choice.


Over the last four years the government of Zimbabwe has systematically shut off democratic space, resulting in a profound socio-political crisis that is making it impossible for citizens to freely express their rights. Under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), the State denies citizens their rights to free expression, arrests and punishes independent-minded journalists and bans the operations of independent media.

We call on the government of President Mugabe to repeal all laws that violate the internationally accepted conventions and standards on free expression. We particularly call on the government to allow the Daily News and all other proscribed media to resume operations.

Signed at Baku, Azerbaijan, on 18 June 2004

Issued by:

East Africa Media Institute, Somalia
Freedom of Expression Institute, South Africa
Journaliste en danger, Democratic Republic of Congo
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda, Nigeria

Endorsed by:

Africa Free Media Foundation (formerly known as the Network for the Defence of Independent Media in Africa)
Azerbaijan Journalists Confederation
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network, International
Central Asian and Southern Caucasian Freedom of Expression Network
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies
Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations
Committee to Protect Journalists
Freedom House
Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa
Greek Helsinki Monitor
Independent Journalism Center, Moldova
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists
International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech "Adil Soz"
Journalists' Trade Union
Media Foundation for West Africa
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Thai Journalists Association
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
World Association of Newspapers
World Press Freedom Committee

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