Alarms over attacks on journalists in Africa

Johannesburg(Reuters) - Killings, harassment or jailing of journalists have risen to an alarming level across Africa and could undermine the continent's drive for better governance, foreign media groups said on Monday.
"In the past few months journalists working in Africa have been charged with espionage, murdered, harassed by government officials, and jailed for defamation and for publishing 'false news'," said a joint statement by the Foreign Correspondents' Association of Southern Africa and its East African counterpart.
"The Foreign Correspondents' Associations note that the attacks have been on foreign and local journalists alike. The associations condemn the attacks and call for the immediate release of jailed journalists."
The two associations have a combined membership of more than 400, including correspondents of some of the world's leading media groups.
The statement was prompted by the abduction and subsequent beheading of respected Sudanese editor Mohammed Taha by unknown kidnappers earlier this month, but the FCA listed several other recent attacks on journalists.
They include the killing of Swedish freelance cameraman Martin Adler, who was shot in June as he covered a large rally in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Paul Salopek was charged with espionage and spreading false news by Sudanese authorities. He was released on "humanitarian grounds" before his trial began.
Also in Khartoum, a crew from Canada's CBC TV that had the necessary permit to film was detained and assaulted in front of their hotel. Cameraman Simon Munene was punched in the head and left bleeding.
"In Ethiopia, at least 20 journalists were jailed, according to statistics by the International Federation of Journalists from August. A female journalist, Serkalem Fasi, gave birth to her son in a police prison," the statement said.
Other incidents included jail sentences handed down to editors in Senegal and Niger and the beating and harassment of reporters covering elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in July.
"We believe that functioning democracies need an independent and unfettered press," the FCA said. "Attacks on journalists damage societies and run counter to the expressed aims of the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) and the Commission for Africa."

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