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[Published: Monday June 01 2009]

Lack of freedom of expression in Africa, Amnesty


London, 28 May.- (ANA) - Governments continued to restrict, without justification, the rights to freedomof expression, association and peaceful assembly, according to Amnesty International’s annual report 2009 published in London.

However, efforts by governments to control information were also countered by increasingly vibrant civil societies, often working in partnership with each other, and stronger independent media.

Legislation or other forms of regulation were frequently used to restrict the work of civil society and the media.

In Ethiopia, the authorities prepared a draft bill that criminalizes human rights activities and gives authorities an excessive level of control over civil society organizations.

In Swaziland, the new Suppression of Terrorism Act, with its impermissibly broad definitions of terrorism, had a chilling effect on the activities of civil society organizations and infringed the rights of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

In Chad, a presidential decree to limit press freedom remained in place even after the state of emergency was lifted. In Sudan, censorship over privately owned media outlets

was reinforced. In Rwanda, the space for independent media workers, including foreign journalists, remained restricted.

In Lesotho, restrictive broadcasting regulations and the use of criminal defamation, sedition and similar charges continued to take their toll on individual media workers and infringed the right to freedom of expression.

In Kenya, parliament passed a media bill, and in Uganda, the authorities were drafting legislation: both laws would further restrict press freedom.

In Niger, the government imposed a media blackout on the conflict in the north of the country and banned journalists from travelling there.

In numerous countries, including Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania and Togo,media outlets were suspended because the authorities disapproved of their stories. Journalists were routinely arrested and sometimes charged with criminal offences, purely for carrying out their work.

Political opponents of the government were arbitrarily arrested and detained in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gambia,Mauritania, Republic of Congo, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. In some cases members of the political opposition were subjected to enforced disappearance or unlawfully killed. In other

countries the space for political opposition, free speech and civil society was non-existent, such as in Eritrea.

Human rights defenders remained at risk in various countries and were often harassed and sometimes arrested for defending their rights as well as the rights of others. Journalists and human rights activists regularly had to flee their country because of security risks.

In Zimbabwe, numerous human rights activists, trade union representatives and political oppositionmembers were arrested. Some were abducted and killed by government security forces as well as non-state actors working on behalf of the authorities. In

Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad and Sudan, human rights defenders were also arrested. In some cases those detained were tortured or otherwise ill-treated. In a number of countries civil society organizations were closed down, or threatened with closure, by

the authorities. (ANA)


AB/ANA/ 28 May 2009 ---

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