Editors' forum concerned at increase in arrests of journalists worldwide

11 August 2020 - 19:33 By ERNEST MABUZA
The South African National Editors' Forum has expressed concern about the rising number of journalists being detained around the world.
The South African National Editors' Forum has expressed concern about the rising number of journalists being detained around the world.
Image: Macor / 123RF Stock Photo

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has expressed concern that 2020 has become a dark year for media freedom worldwide because of the increase in the number of journalists jailed in various countries since the Covid-19 crisis.

Sanef said it joins the African Editors' Forum in condemning the new anti-media freedom regulations signed by Tanzanian president John Magufuli, which have eroded the gains made by the Tanzanian media over the past four decades.

Sanef said Tanzania has over the past few months shut down several media outlets and ordered the closure of newspapers critical of Magufuli's government.

Tanzania has also put in place repressive laws that restrict media freedom and threaten journalists' safety in the country, said Sanef.

These laws include the Electronic and Postal Communications Act, which requires anyone with a blog or a website to pay hefty licence fees.

New rules have forced media companies to reapply for operating licences on a more regular basis, further restricting critical voices in local media.

Sanef also expressed its solidarity with the World Association of News Publishers and the World Editors Forum, in condemning:

  • the continued detention of Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono;
  • the increased jail time for Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein in Egypt; and
  • the arrest in Hong Kong on Monday of Jimmy Lai, the founder and publisher of Apple Daily.

Last week, the Zimbabwean courts denied bail to Chin’ono, accusing him of stoking violence ahead of planned anti-government protests. Chin’ono has been actively exposing corruption in Zimbabwe.

On Sunday, the Egyptian authorities extended the detention of Hussein for another 45 days. He has been in jail since December 2016, surpassing the legal limit of detention without trial. Sanef said Egypt has ignored calls by the UN for it to end the arbitrary detention.

On Monday, Lai, his two sons and six executives of Apple Daily's parent company Next Digital were arrested under new national security laws when some 200 policemen raided the Apple Daily offices.

The laws, which were adopted by China for Hong Kong at the end of June, criminalise secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces - the charge against Lai.

Warren Fernandez, president of the World Editors Forum, called on all journalists to stand with editors on the African continent in calling for the release of Chin’ono.

He urged regional powers to put pressure on the Zimbabwean government to stop criminalising critical journalism.

“We also believe that Mr Hussein should be released, particularly in light of the worsening health conditions in Egypt's jails,” he said.

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