By JOINT REPORT: The EastAfrican Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda have recently enacted, or are in the process of enacting, laws that put the media under close state supervision. The World Press Freedom Index 2013, published by Reporters Without Borders, describes East Africa as a region of censorship, singling out Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan and Ethiopia, where newspapers are arbitrarily shut down, and journalists jailed for breaking laws or for criticizing the government. Media freedom under threat in East Africa Outcry over EA governments attempts to stifle media Tanzania has joined other East African countries in proposing new media laws that would see journalists face severe penalties for professional mistakes, and curtail media freedom. Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda have recently enacted, or are in the process of enacting, laws that put the media under close state supervision. Early this month, the Tanzanian government presented a schedule of amendments to the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 2013. The Parliamentary Committee chairperson, Pindi Chana, confirmed that they had received the schedule of amendments. “My committee gives views not only on the Newspapers Act, but other laws that are proposed to be amended to be presented before the parliament,” Ms. Chana told The EastAfrican over the phone. “If the Newspaper Act amendment goes through, all newspapers will be closed down because it is easy for influential people to use the law for revenge,” said Angelo Mwoleka, the managing director of Kutoka Arusha, a weekly Kiswahili newspaper. INVESTIGATIVE STORY In Kenya, on Thursday Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo summoned journalists Mohammed Ali, John Allan Namu and group chief executive Sam Shollei of the Standard Group over an investigative story on the Westgate mall terrorist attack in September. He claimed they incited the public against the government by “provoking” propaganda. In response, chief executive of the Media Council of Kenya Harun Mwangi said Mr. Kimaiyo ought to have directed his complaints to the council, and that the police were trying to intimidate and curtail media freedom because of the impact of the story aired on KTN. In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame in March signed new press laws and a Freedom of Information Act, in which the Media Council that was previously known for censoring the press was assigned new responsibilities of capacity building and promoting professional journalism. But journalists in Rwanda have been jailed for criminal libel, alleged national security offences and genocide-related laws. Agnes Uwimana and Saidati Mukakibibi were jailed for allegedly defaming President Kagame and “endangering national security” after writing articles that criticized the government’s agricultural policy and denied the genocide. Fears emerge over Rwanda's information law In Uganda, the government enacted a law that allows the state to shut down newspapers and jail journalists for articles said to undermine national security. As a result, the safety and security of journalists’ remains compromised, with many subjected to arbitrary arrests. The World Press Freedom Index 2013, published by Reporters without Borders, describes East Africa as a region of censorship, singling out Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan and Ethiopia, where newspapers are arbitrarily shut down, and journalists jailed for breaking laws or for criticizing the government.
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