A journalist forced into hiding, the passing of a stalwart media advocate, and a show of unity by trade unions

The loss of a Pan African stalwart

Condolence messages from around the globe began pouring in last month when Namibia’s vice president Nangolo Mbumba announced that President Hage Geingob had died at Lady Pohamba Hospital in Windhoek.

His unwavering commitment to media freedom stood out strongly in a continent where the press is constantly under attack.

His wife, former first lady Monica Geingos, paid tribute to his legacy of inclusivity: “The Internationalist. The pan African. The proud Namibian. The family man. The father to many. The joyful giver. […] Hage was dedicated to building an inclusive, united Namibia that lived up to its potential. He was raised as a Namibian and wanted to see the country’s integration of cultures, and the lack of tribalism he grew up in.”

Namibia Media Trust director Zoé Titus noted his “profound commitment to press freedom, a cornerstone of his legacy which has positively shaped the media landscape in Namibia.”

Pendessa arrested, then released; repression continues in Guinea

An exceptional show of solidarity in February was capped by the release of imprisoned Guinean journalist Sékou Jamal Pendessa following a successful appeal hearing that reduced his six-month partially suspended sentence to time previously served in detention.

Support for Pendessa, who is the secretary general of the Union of the Press Professionals of Guinea (SPPG), began with the country’s national trade union – Syndicat des travailleurs de la Guinea (STG) – requesting his unconditional release soon after he was arrested. It was part of a broader set of demands that included calls for lower food prices, an end to media censorship, and improved living conditions for civil servants. When, instead, Pendessa was convicted and handed a six month sentence, the STG, supported by a dozen trade unions and other stakeholders, instituted nationwide strikes that brought Conakry to a halt and slowed down the rest of the country.

Since the military takeover in September 2021 there has been steady and gradual decline of civic space in the country. Broadcasting channels have been suspended, access to news websites have been restricted, journalists have been intimidated, threatened and arbitrarily arrested and jailed. Access to popular social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and TikTok, has been blocked. The ruling junta rebuffed a call by the United Nations to lift a ban on political demonstrations in place since 2022.

Despite the ban, the SPPG has been leading the resistance against the “increased repression of media freedom,” as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk recently described it. This has put the the union and Pendassa in the firing line, and the most recent charges against him of  “unlawful participation in public demonstration and attempt to public order”, were related to a rally organised to protest restrictions on press freedom and internet access in the country.

Galindo arrested, detained, released, deported – Ethiopia’s cycle of harassment

Antoine Galindo, a French journalist working for Paris-based news website Africa Intelligence, travelled to Ethiopia to cover an African Union summit and work on local news stories. Despite receiving his accreditation and entering Ethiopia legally, he was arrested on 22 January, and there was no news of him until 24 February. He was released one day before his scheduled court appearance, and immediately deported

Galindo was arrested while in conversation with Battee Urgessa, a representative of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and they were both charged with “conspiracy to create chaos.” Voice of America reports that: “two days later, Galindo was brought before a judge who granted a one-week investigation period for police to search the journalist’s mobile phone and apprehend other ‘suspects’ who were ‘complicit.’”

Reporters without Borders (RSF) shared from a statement by Africa Intelligence that “condemned Galindo’s “unjustified arrest” and the “spurious accusations” against him, which it said were “not based on any tangible evidence that might justify this extended deprivation of liberty”, and called for an end to the mounting persecution of journalism in Ethiopia.

Calls for Malawi to guarantee safety for Gregory Gondwe

Managing director of the privately owned news website Platform for Investigative Journalism, Gregory Godfrey Gondwe, who fled to South Africa in fear for his life, is keen to return home to Malawi and with the support of RSF is seeking guarantees for his safety.

An exposé by Gondwe published on 29 January reported that the Malawi Defence Force had made a large payment to a Malawi-born UK businessman suspected of corrupt practices. A few hours after it was published, a source warned Gondwe that he could be arrested at any moment because the authorities wanted to know where the leak came from, reported RSF.

“Any attempts to arrest Gondwe or to intimidate him into silence would send a deeply worrying message about Malawi’s commitment to press freedom,” said CPJ Africa Head Angela Quintal in New York.

“No single public institution is above reproach, and authorities should ensure that Malawi’s journalists can cover the military and the security sector without fear of retaliation.”

On Thursday, Gondwe, managing director of the privately owned news website Platform for Investigative Journalism, said on Facebook that he had gone into hiding after government sources informed him that the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) intended to arrest him in connection with his January 29 report alleging that the military had paid millions of dollars to a firm associated with Zuneth Sattar, a Malawian-born British businessman.

Source from: https://ifex.org/a-journalist-forced-into-hiding-the-passing-of-a-stalwart-media-advocate-and-a-show-of-unity-by-trade-unions/

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