GOVERNMENTS in sub-Saharan Africa are the most intolerant to the practice of journalism; they have twenty five journalists in detention, a majority of them without any charges, according to a new report, writes Dennis Itumbi for journalism.co.za.
Eritrea tops the African list of shame, for holding 19 of them and declining to give any updates on their conditions or location of detention, the annual journalist Census by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reveals.
Eritrea holds this dubious distinction since 2001when the authorities abruptly closed the private press by arresting at least ten editors without charge or trial. The Eritrean government has refused to confirm if the detainees are still alive, says the CPJ report.
Ethiopia, Gambia and Cameroon are the other African countries mentioned in the list of intolerance to freedom of expression by journalists.
Online and print journalists topped the list of 136 reporters globally, indicating a fresh danger to freelance journalists who do not have the protection offered by large media houses.
On December 1, a total of 25 journalists were imprisoned in Sub-Saharan AfricaÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â for their journalism, and nearly 90 percent of these journalists were detained without charges in secret detention facilities.
Interestingly even the United States has joined the list, despite having the fourth Amendment lauded globally by journalism scholars as a shield to the practice of journalism.
China continued to be the worlds worst jailer of journalists, a dishonor it has held for 11 consecutive years, Iran, Cuba, Eritrea, and Burma round out the top five jailers from among the 26 nations that imprison journalists, the Census notes.
But it is the fresh trend to target new media journalists that will have media scholars in the continent devising fresh approaches to the profession.
The days when journalists went off on dangerous assignments knowing they had the full institutional weight of their media organizations behind them are receding into history, said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.
Today, journalists on the front lines are increasingly working independently. The rise of online journalism has opened the door to a new generation of reporters, but it also means they are vulnerable.
Internet and print journalists make up the bulk of the census. Radio journalists compose the next largest professional category, accounting for 7 percent of cases. Television journalists and documentary filmmakers each account for 3 percent.
Worldwide, a total of 136 reporters, editors, and photojournalists were behind bars, an increase of 11 from the 2008 tally. The survey also found that freelancers now make up nearly 45 percent of all journalists jailed across the globe.
There has been a deliberate and significant increase on new media journalism across the continent over the last two years.
The fact that online journalism is not controlled by advertisement revenue but a passion to expose the truth far beyond what the mainstream can do could be a major factor affecting the security of freelance journalists in the region, Jacque Ooko, the President of the Journalist Association of Kenya (JAK) said when contacted to comment on the report.