By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
Eritrea and Ethiopia have respectively continue to become Africa’s leading jailers of journalists, according to a new survey released Thursday by an independent watchdog.
The US-based Freedom House said governments of the two east African countries continue to show little tolerance to dissent and as a result have the highest number of imprisoned journalists in sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite the release of 10 imprisoned journalists in 2015, the report said Ethiopia continued to repress all independent reporting, and remained the second-worst jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa, after Eritrea.
The report noted for the Journalists in East and Southern Africa suffered from a sharp increase in political pressure and violence in 2015.
In the midst of Burundi’s political crisis in May, which stemmed from the president’s pursuit of a third term, nearly all independent media outlets were closed or destroyed. The loss of these outlets, especially radio stations that had been the main source of information, resulted in a dearth of reporting on critical issues. Extensive intimidation and violence against journalists by the regime of President Pierre Nkurunziza and his supporters drove many into exile.
According to the report for East Africa, the run-up to early 2016 elections in Uganda featured an increase in harassment of journalists attempting to cover opposition politicians. In Kenya, greater government pressure in the form of repressive laws, intimidation, and threats to withdraw state advertising resulted in a reduction in critical reporting on President Uhuru Kenyatta and his cronies.
Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan. South Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti were listed amongst the last 20 African countries designated by the group as not free Media.