Attacks against independent media in Somalia, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria intensified in October 2022, as journalists in the three countries faced numerous threats to their safety that included physical attacks and arrests, according to the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), which launched its monitoring of press freedom violations in Africa this month.
According to the IPI, a total of 44 press freedom violations were identified in October across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with 33 of these incidents involving male journalists and four involving female journalists.
It said its data showed that state actors, such as state security agents or police, were involved in a vast majority of these incidents with the highest number of identified cases of 14 incidents occurring in Somalia, where independent journalists and civil society have come under increasing attack amid escalating violence and deteriorating security conditions due to ongoing clashes between government forces and the Islamist armed group Al-Shabab.
The report is the first result of IPI’s Africa press freedom monitoring while the monitoring work is part of its newly launched Africa programme, which, according to IPI, seeks to monitor attacks on journalists and press freedom, defend the media’s watchdog role, and hold states accountable for their failures to protect journalist safety and combat impunity.
IPI reported that in Zimbabwe, it identified and documented at least 12 press freedom violations — the second most incidents of any country in sub-Saharan Africa in October and that three journalists were physically assaulted, including two reporters for HStvNEWS who were assaulted by the police in the Harare suburb of Mbare while they were working on a documentary.
It said there were also multiple cases in which authorities restricted access to information by prohibiting certain journalists from covering events.
IPI noted that in Nigeria, four journalists were arrested, including Abdulrasheed Akogun and Dare Akogun, who were arrested on criminal charges for comments they posted in a popular WhatsApp group chat.
It reported that the journalists were accused of criminal conspiracy, defamation, inciting disturbance, injurious falsehood, and cyberstalking, adding that authorities in the country also order the closure of at least six media outlets for covering an opposition political rally.
IPI explained that it monitors and collects data on press freedom violations in Africa using a standardized methodology that categorizes violations across the following main categories: physical, verbal or online attacks; arrests and charges against journalists; surveillance of journalists; cases of censorship; laws and regulations that restrict the press freedom; and restriction on access to information. Data are further disaggregated by gender.
It said its monitoring and data collection activities are part of its wider Africa programme, which aims to defend press freedom and the safety of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa.