Impunity in sub-Saharan Africa suffered clear setbacks in early 2003. On 31 January, a special court in Maputo (Mozambique) sentenced the men who killed journalist Carlos Cardoso in 2000 to between 23 and 28 years in prison. During the trial, the defendants accused the president’s son, Nyimpine Chissano, of ordering the killing. The state prosecutor said Chissano’s role in the murder was being investigated.
Another hopeful sign was the improved situation of journalists in Côte d’Ivoire. Their working conditions remained difficult, but arrests and attacks on both foreign and local journalists stopped. The 24 January Linas-Marcoussis Agreement condemned "the incitement to hatred and xenophobia by some media" and said more power would be given to the authorities to ensure the media respected journalistic ethics and principles. The accord said the "neutrality and impartiality" of state-owned media would be guaranteed and the "financial independence" of the rest of the media would be encouraged. The general picture was marred by discovery of the body of an Agence ivoirienne de presse journalist in the western part of the country in March. He was probably executed by Liberian militiamen and was the first journalist killed in the continent during the year.
Eritrea remained the continent’s biggest prison for journalists, with 18 held in secret since September 2001 without being able to contact their families. In a rare interview in April, President Issaias Afeworki called them "spies."
Censorship returned to Guinea-Bissau, where in February the government shut down the main independent radio station, and in Cameroon, where the state printing firm refused to print the country’s only privately-owned daily paper after it published an in-depth report on the possible succession to President Paul Biya.
In Benin, journalists staged an unusual street protest against a police attack on four of them in early April. The state communications authority called on the police to explain themselves.
Calm returned to the Central African Republic after several days of disorder during the 15 March coup d’état and the media freely printed strong criticism of the country’s new strongman, Gen. François Bozizé.