Chilling picture emerges of increasing intimidation of reporters in southern Africa
Press freedom is being increasingly compromised in southern Africa‚ where journalists and media owners are being targeted for exposing the truth.
Amnesty International‚ in marking World Press Freedom Day yesterday‚ said intimidation of journalists sent a frightening message to their colleagues‚ causing them to self-censor.
“From Angola to Zambia‚ we have seen disturbingly brazen attacks on press freedom which have a chilling effect on those working in the media,” Amnesty International’s regional director for southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, said.
“Across the region‚ journalists have been targeted simply for exposing the truth.”
Amnesty International cited cases where journalists in southern Africa had been shot‚ intimidated‚ harassed and charged for investigative reporting.
South Africa has witnessed two such high-profile incidents in the past month alone.
Sunday Times investigative journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika was threatened for his reporting on lucrative tenders awarded by Eskom. He was given 24-hour security after the newspaper received credible information that his life was in danger.
The Times journalist Katharine Child was manhandled by a man who identified himself as a policeman at a religious event hosted by the Gupta family and attended by President Jacob Zuma.
Last year, eight SABC journalists were dismissed for questioning editorial interference by the broadcaster’s executives.
Although seven of them were later reinstated, some have since received threatening messages.
Lesotho Times editor Lloyd Mutungamiri survived a shooting by unknown gunmen last year.
In Botswana‚ two journalists were briefly detained and threatened with death by plain-clothed security agents after they tried to access an area where a private holiday home was being built for President Ian Khama.
In Malawi‚ Teresa Chirwa-Ndanga‚ a journalist working for a privately owned television station, was harassed by security personnel at State House‚ where she had gone to cover a media conference hosted by President Arthur Mutharika.
The United Nations General Assembly instituted World Press Freedom Day to highlight the importance of press freedom.