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African politicians ban media to avoid criticism

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In this article by Issa Sikiti da Silva for BizCommunity.com, Henry Maina, director of Article 19 talks about why African politicians ban media:

The fundamental reason that many African governments ban and harass the media has more to do with personal connotations than other issues, Kenya’s Henry Maina, director of Article 19 Eastern Africa, told delegates at the two-day Regulations and Rights media conference last week in Johannesburg.

“If you look closely, you will see that politicians across the continent don’t want to be criticised,” Maina, a specialist in criminal justice, human rights, advocacy and governance, said.

In many African countries, where the head of the state, ministers and members of the ruling party have become the law themselves, and courts exist only to try cases of petty crimes and murder, any journalist who takes on the government will be promptly arrested, tried in a ‘kangaroo court’ for high treason and executed or jailed for life.

Prosecuted for insulting authorities

In other countries, however, where there is some sort of rule of law and social justice, criticism of the government usually end up in courts, with journalists being prosecuted for insulting high-profile authorities.

Maina described these laws as archaic and oppressive, saying Africa should repeal them. “More than 40 African countries still have these colonial laws, including official secret laws. Why? If you are going to keep secrets, you should do it in a progressive manner,” he said.

Maina fired a salvo at South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, for proposing the creation of a media appeals tribunal and resuscitating colonial laws.

Critics believe the ANC, which brags to be the sole contributor of the restoration of freedom of expression and press liberties enjoyed today by all citizens, has turned from hero to villain by re-enacting some of apartheid’s legislation, including the National Key Points Act, the Film and Publication Amendment Act, and lately the much-hated Protection of Information Bill (aka Secrecy Bill).

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