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Ethiopia Frees Eritrean Journalists After Nearly 11 Years

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The sources told VOA’s Horn of Africa service that Tesfaldet Kidane and Salih Gama were released over the weekend. A family member of Kidane said Gama has already left for Eritrea, while Kidane is still in Ethiopia.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Gama, a show host for Eritrea’s state broadcaster, and Kidane, a cameraman, were arrested in December 2006 on the Kenya-Somalia border during Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia.

CPJ says that in April 2007, Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry presented them on state television as part of a group of 41 captured terrorism suspects. But the two were never formally charged or put on trial.

There have been no official statements on their release from the Ethiopian or Eritrean governments.

The two governments have little tolerance for perceived dissent or criticism, and usually rank near the bottom on indexes of press freedom. CPJ says that as of 2016, Ethiopia was holding 16 journalists behind bars, while Eritrea was holding 17, some of whom have been in prison since 2001.

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Car Bomb Kills Journalist in Somalia Capital, Says Witness

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A Somali journalist has been killed by a car bomb in the capital late Monday, says a fellow journalist.

Mohamed Ibrahim, a news presenter for Kalsan TV, died at a hospital after being injured by a bomb concealed in his car in Mogadishu’s Wadajir district, said Ahmed Mohamed, who works for the same broadcaster.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries for media workers. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 59 journalists have been killed since 1992, soon after a civil war began in this Horn of Africa nation. The deadliest year was 2012 when 18 journalists were killed.

It is believed that over the years several different groups have killed the journalists, including the Islamic extremist rebels of Al-Shabab, Somali warlords, criminals and possibly government agents.

Somali journalists frequently receive threats. But police rarely investigate the threats or murders or adequately protect reporters. Only one person has been convicted of killing a journalist and he was executed last year.

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Detained Ugandan Journalists Charged with Libel, Other Offenses

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Uganda on Monday charged eight managers and editors of a daily newspaper with several offenses including libel and computer misuse and a court ordered them detained until Dec. 5.

The journalists have been in detention for nearly a week after police raided the premises of Red Pepper, accusing them of publishing a false story.

Police had said on Nov. 23 that they had preferred several charges including treason against the journalists. Their lawyer, Maxma Mutabingwa, said that when they appeared in court for the first time on Monday, treason was not among the offenses read out to them.

Instead they were charged with several counts of libel, offensive communication and publication of information prejudicial to security.

“I think police backed off the treason charge because it was ridiculous, it was not sustainable at all,” he told Reuters.

The journalists applied for bail but the state prosecutor said he needed time to respond and court adjourned the proceedings to Dec. 5.

The raid on the paper followed publication of a story that, citing unnamed sources, said that Rwanda believed Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was plotting to oust its leader, Paul Kagame.

The paper has a wide readership and often regales its audience with a surfeit of salacious content about private lives of political and business officials and celebrities.

In recent years, it has moved to include more political coverage and has sometimes irked authorities with audacious headlines on security, diplomacy and power maneuvers in the government of President Yoweri Museveni.

Police have kept the media outlet’s premises cordoned off. It has not published the daily since the raid. Computers, phones and other equipment confiscated during the search have also not been returned, Mutabingwa said.

Rights groups and journalists have complained of escalating harassment and intimidation of independent media by security personnel in the East African country, especially as Museveni faces growing opposition pressure to end his rule.

Local media, including Red Pepper, have reported this month on tensions between Uganda and neighboring Rwanda over a range of economic and security disputes, but Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry has dismissed the reports as rumors.

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There’s growing concern about the price Africa will pay for internet shutdowns and fake news

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EPA/Will Oliver

ABDI LATIF DAHIR

The internet has been lauded as a panacea for Africa—a tool for economic, political and social transformation. The availability of mobile broadband and fiber optic connections has been hailed for enabling e-commerce and spurring innovative industries in education, health, insurance, and beyond. Lower smartphone prices are also driving a digital revolution across the continent, allowing more people to access the internet at unprecedented levels.

But Sudanese-British billionaire and businessman Mohammed Ibrahim now says that internet shutdowns and the spread of fake news on social media threaten the continent’s digital development. In an interview with Quartz, Ibrahim lamented how governments continue to frequently block the internet and social media outlets—including as recently as last week during Somaliland’s presidential elections.

“Closing down of the internet is really a crime. And that should not be tolerated,” Ibrahim said, specifically mentioning the 93-day blackoutthis year in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions. “To try to gag the people and silence them is not appropriate really. It’s not acceptable.”

Ibrahim was the founder of Celtel International, one of the first mobile phone companies serving Africa and the Middle East. He later sold it to the Kuwait-based Mobile Telecommunications Company—now Zain. Ibrahim spoke to Quartz after the launch of the 2017 Mo Ibrahim Index, which ranks African countries on a broad spectrum of indicators including rule of law, safety economic, political and human rights.

“Are we producing people from our education systems who are able to build dams, grids, roads, factories and get into IT services?”

Ibrahim also bemoaned the dissemination of so called fake news and misinformation online, and how they are used to meddle in elections. As seen in Kenya, where Facebook and WhatsApp were being used concertedlyto spread misinformation and to sway public opinion in the run-up to the election this year.

“We need to be careful about [the] use of social media,” said Ibrahim. “We’ve seen all these abuses elsewhere and we hope to get the benefits of social media without the perils and inappropriate use that this media has produced elsewhere.”

Earlier this month, Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka also expressed grave concern about the role of fake news and social media in society.

Against the retreading or slowing political and economic reality in Africa, the Index shows a decade of consistent growth when it comes to digital technology and infrastructure. Ibrahim noted that there needs to be increased financing of the sector by angel investors, venture capitalists, and private equity funds in order to catalyze the internet’s contribution to the overall gross domestic product or iGDP. Education systems should also be improved in order to bridge the gap of education to skills mismatch, he said, which leaves many young people unemployed and lures them to migrate or even join terrorist organizations.

“Are we producing people from our education systems who are able to build dams, electric grids, build roads, factories and get into the IT services?” Ibrahim asked. “These are huge areas where we lack skilled people, and we need to deal with that.”

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