A delegation from the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is expected to participate in the G8 Summit to be held this year in Kananaskis (Canada) on 26 and 27 June. Reporters Without Borders takes this opportunity to stress that freedom of the press in five of NEPAD’s member countries (Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Rwanda and Tunisia), is in jeopardy: press freedom violations occur frequently and perpetrators are going unpunished
Although Reporters Without Borders can but support this project, whose purpose is to promote "peace, security, democracy, proper governance, the respect of human rights and sound economic management," the organisation considers that NEPAD’s goals are unachievable in the absence of a free, independent and pluralistic press and that it is bound to fail as long as its member-states are not exemplary models for freedom of information.
It is therefore up to the five Heads of State who are NEPAD’s key sponsors (Messrs. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Thabo Mbeki, Hosni Moubarak, Olusegun Obasanjo and Abdulaye Wade) to set an example if they hope to gain credibility among their own peoples, the international community and their African economic partners. Yet, even in this respect, they fall short.
Consequently, Reporters Without Borders is requesting the G8 Heads of State to do whatever necessary to ensure that their meeting with the NEPAD representatives results in concrete measures designed to protect press freedom in Africa, and abolish all prison terms for press offences other than incitement to hatred or murder. Lastly, Reporters Without Borders requests the five Heads of State who spearheaded NEPAD to call to order those member countries that are defying freedom of the press.
In Ethiopia, three journalists have been imprisoned for several months for having criticized the government or for having given members of the opposition an opportunity to express their opinions. A dozen other members of the press named in judicial proceedings are likely to be arraigned at any time. The liberalisation of radio and television programming, announced many times over, has yet to be implemented.
In Rwanda, journalists are still being subjected to threats and pressure, and at least two of them have remained behind bars for several years, simply because they were doing their job. The use of self-censorship is extremely widespread, for journalists cannot touch upon certain subjects without running the risk of incurring the wrath of government authorities. All radio and television stations are state-run.
In Tunisia, pressures exerted by the current regime have been constantly increasing on the few journalists who continue-as best they can-to carry on their work on the fringe of a state-controlled press. A cyberpolice force has set up what amounts to a veritable Internet blockade. Zouhair Yahyaoui, who created the TUNeZINE.com news website, was arrested in Tunis on 4 June 2002. Accused of "circulating false information," he may be facing a five-year prison sentence.
In Cameroon, five journalists have been arrested since January 2001 for having exposed the corruption of certain senior government officials, or for having criticized police methods. Others have been forced to go into hiding to avoid being interrogated themselves.
Lastly, in Gabon, the government has banned the only opposition newspaper and the public media remain almost exclusively under the control of President Omar Bongo.