Nigeria and Somalia Lead Violation of Freedom of Expression in Africa – AFEX Report

Felicia Anthonio, AFEX Coordinator
Felicia Anthonio, AFEX Coordinator

The “Annual Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa Report 2018” issued by the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) has indicted 30 African countries for collectively perpetrating 208 freedom of expression violations, with Nigeria and Somalia having the highest number of such violations and jointly claiming 18% of the attacks.

The Report compiles and analyses the data gathered from 30 African countries in 2018, covering incidents of freedom of expression violations (including protests) and other freedom of expression developments in the countries. It recorded 73 cases of physical attack, 50 arrests & detentions, 19 threat, 17 cases of seizure/ damage of Property, 11 Killings; eight incidents each of digital rights violation and ban/ shutdown; six sentences, four incidents each of denial to assemble and censorship; three repressive laws, three suspension incidents and two incidents of Kidnap.

Physical attacks and arrests and detention constitute 59% of the attacks on freedom of expression in the year 2018. Eleven killings were also recorded – three each in Somalia and Guinea, two in Togo and one each in Liberia, Senegal and The Gambia.

 Attack on online expression is increasingly becoming a trend according to the Report. “Another violation that is gradually, but increasingly becoming prevalent across the continent is online violation which takes many forms – social media or internet disruptions and shutdowns; threats; arrests and detentions; and other forms of abuses which are meted out against individuals for their online expression,” it said.

The Report identified seven categories of perpetrators for the period under review, indicting state security agents as the biggest culprits of many of the violations. More than half (56%) of the violations cited in the Report were perpetrated by state security agents followed by individuals who also carried out about 17% of the violations. Organised groups, affiliate bodies, political parties, courts and state officials are other perpetrators identified in the Report.

The Report identified 187 victims of the 208 attacks; 161 of the victims were journalists and media workers; 17 were media houses; and the remaining were other individuals or the media.

According to the Report, “A further analysis of the data showed that more males were directly affected by the violations than females. In particular, 133 of the 161 journalists and media workers affected by the violations were males; 13 were females while the remaining 15 were of both sexes. Eight of the people killed in 2018 were male journalists. The other three were protesters who were expressing their grievances to authorities.”

Many of the violations recorded in the Report did not receive any redress. Specifically, out of the 208 violations recorded, only 14 received redress, leaving the remaining 194 unresolved.