JOHANNESBURG – The detentions of Nigerian publisher Agba Jalingo and Ethiopian editor Fekadu Mahtemework – the only journalists behind bars for their work in their countries, only tell part of the story of their governments’ crackdowns on freedom of expression, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Wednesday.
The CPJ Africa programme’s Muthoki Mumo and Jonathan Rozen said investigations throughout 2019 to compile the organisation’s list of 250 journalists imprisoned in connection with their work identified multiple complex cases of jailed activist-journalists, whose ongoing detentions were found to be more connected with their political activities than their journalistic work.
“One example is Oyomole Sowore, the Nigerian activist and journalist who founded the Sahara Reporters news website. Sowore does not appear on CPJ’s prison census. But his detention, and that of other activist-journalists arrested in Ethiopia, matters,” they said.
Sahara Reporters’ investigations into alleged corruption and other political issues in Nigeria had drawn the ire of officials and CPJ had documented repeated efforts over recent months to intimidate the paper’s staff and take the website offline, Mumo and Rozen said in a statement.
Similarly, they said, CPJ research indicated old tools of censorship had re-emerged across Ethiopia to silence dissenting voices, despite the reforms made under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.