MEDIA in Sub-Saharan AfricaÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â are ill-prepared to cover and report on conflict, a top panelist argued during the launch of a report looking at the state of media globally, writes Dennis Itumbi for journalism.co.za.
David Makali, the director of the Media Institute – East Africa, spokeÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â during the Committee of Journalists (CPJ) launch of the report. HeÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â argued that lack of information and retrogressive laws on information access have made reporters ineffective during war and other conflicts prevalent in the region.
Makali, who also runs a journal promoting press freedom in the region, also says that lack of adequate equipment and constant training has made journalists ineffective.
Referring to specific examples across the region, Makali argued that journalists had also become a target during coverage of conflict, saying militia groups, hired youths and even government operatives had made it impossible for journalists to discharge their duties.
"In Somalia, journalists are being forced to flee and everyday threats are coming in from militia groups and some getting arrested by government, in Sudan censorship is still on, in Kenya when there was post election violence journalists found themselves at the centre of hostile police and marauding youths, in Uganda covering conflict has been criminalized, its very unfortunate," Makali said.
The report launched observed that a high numbers of local journalists have fled several African countries in recent years after being assaulted, threatened, or imprisoned, leaving a deep void in professional reporting.
Signed by Tom Rhodes, the African Program Director for the CPJ, the report notes, "The starkest examples are in the Horn of Africa nations of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, where dozens of journalists have been forced into exile. Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and the Gambia have also lost large segments of the local press corps in the face of intimidation and violence."
He added that "many exiled African journalists face great challenges and continuing risk."
"The Union of Exiled Somali Journalists said about half of its members eke out a precarious existence on the dangerous streets of KenyaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s capital, Nairobi. Most fled so precipitously that they took few belongings or identification papers. The exile union, along with the National Union of Somali Journalists, both said they had received reports that Somali exiles have faced arbitrary harassment and detention at the hands of Kenyan police."
"The Rwandan Mukombozi told CPJ that members of his family had been assaulted twice in Kigali after he was forced into exile.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAll that psychological pressure more than triples when such incidents happen, and the restricted communication between the exiled journalist and his/her family makes the harm on both sides enormous.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The report was launched simultaneously in different gloabal capitals.