Amnesty International says media freedom in southern Africa has been muzzled as journalists are still being targeted for reporting the truth.
In a statement issued by media manager Robert Shivambu, Amnesty International Southern Africa Regional Director Deprose Muchena observed that media space in countries like Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe has continued to shrink.
Speaking when he took stock on the state of press freedoms to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, which falls on May 3, Muchena noted that media freedom in many countries in the region still remained under threat as journalists were put in jail for doing their job.
“In the past year, we have seen blatant attempts to muzzle the media and restrict the right to freedom of expression in countries, such as Madagascar, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe with journalists being harassed or jailed simply for doing their work, with far-reaching implications including self-censorship. This onslaught is undermining the very essence of free societies, where journalists must be able to do their work without fearing intimidation, harassment or other reprisals,” Muchena stated.
He noted that the arrest of Zambia’s Rainbow Newspaper Editor-in-Chief Derrick Sinjela, who was currently serving an 18-month jail sentence after being convicted on contempt of court charges.
“In early March, authorities suspended the broadcasting license of independent news station, Prime TV, for 30 days citing failure to comply with the conditions of its broadcasting license. The station was later re-instated after almost a month of blackout,” Muchena added.
He recalled the arrest and sentencing of a Madagascan investigative journalist Fernand Cello, who spent nearly two years in jail after he was convicted on trumped up charges related to his work.
Muchena also remembered how a radio journalist in Mozambique named Amade Abubacar was detained for four months after he was arrested for interviewing a group of displaced people, who were fleeing attacks by militant groups in their homes in Cabo Delgado in January.
And Muchena appealed to authorities to stop treating the media with contempt and open up the space for journalists to do their work.
“Authorities must stop treating the media with contempt and open up the space for journalists to do their work safely without having to look over their shoulders. A vibrant and independent press is essential for the enjoyment of human rights. Journalists should not be treated as enemies of the State,” stated Muchena.