Monthly Archives: December 2018

Gambia’s Journalists, Free from Dictator, Work to Win Trust

DAKAR, SENEGAL Journalists in Gambia have launched a self-regulatory body they hope will offer legitimacy, and far more freedom, to media emerging from a dictatorship that ruled the tiny West African nation for more than two decades.

During the 22 years of former President Yahya Jammeh’s rule, journalists were regularly abducted, tortured and killed. The new government has vowed new freedoms after he fled into exile in early 2017 following a surprise election defeat.

Outdated sedition laws are still on the books, however, and the public is urged to bring any complaints about journalists to the new Media Council of The Gambia instead of to the courts.

There is a need to promote higher professional standards, said Saikou Jammeh, the secretary-general of the Gambia Press Union, which oversees the new body. He is not related to the former president. We also set it up to keep the government far away from any attempts to regulate the media, he said. It’s not their business and it shouldn’t be their business.

The new media council represents a significant step for press freedom, he said.

Under the former regime, many journalists had to switch on survival mode and they would not publish anything that would get them in trouble, Jammeh said. The relationship of the media and the public was characterized by paranoia and mistrust.

He said a free press has blossomed since the election win of President Adama Barrow in December 2016, with new television stations opening and online newspapers returning from exile to fearlessly publish investigations and criticism of alleged government mismanagement.

The Gambia Press Union’s president, Sheriff Bojang Jr., spoke of headlines that he said would have been suicidal during (Yahya) Jammeh’s time, but said the greatest change could be heard on radio talk shows, where on a daily basis people are blasting the (current) regime.

The new government has promised support.

We will work with you in this difficult journey, Gambia’s information minister, Ebrima Sillah, recently told journalists, vowing the government would do what it takes for media to continue to operate without restrictions.

At least 30 journalists have returned to the country after more than 100 fled the previous regime, according to Reporters Without Borders, although it said a couple have faced violence upon their return from supporters of the previous government.

We are in a truly new era for the press in the Gambia, Arnaud Froger, head of the group’s Africa desk, told The Associated Press. Things have moved very quickly since the new administration took power.

As of 2018, Gambia ranks 122 on the group’s annual World Press Index of media freedom violations in 180 countries. In 2017, it ranked 143rd and in 2016, when Jammeh was in power, it was 145th.

Gambia is the country that has shown the largest progression this year, Froger said.

Despite the optimism and expectations of wider freedoms, a legal battle continues over old media laws that human rights defenders call draconian. The Supreme Court in May called old laws against criminal defamation and libel unconstitutional, but parts of the criminal code on sedition remain.

A sedition law that protects the president from media criticism but permits criticism of the government is a paradox in a democracy, Saikou Jammeh with the press union said.

Other experts said the government, which has pledged to work with journalists, still needs to do more.

It’s also about the courts being able to enforce that media law and it’s also about getting to educate the people in the country to understand the role the media plays in the democracy, said John Mukum Mbaku, a researcher at the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative.

As Gambian journalists assembled for the launch of their new council, memories of past violence hung in the air. The council launched amid events marking the anniversary of the 2004 killing of Deyda Hydara, a veteran newspaper editor who was gunned down by what the Yahya Jammeh regime called unknown assailants.

Days before his death, Hydara pledged to take legal action to stop attempts to regulate the media through a government-established media council, which could have imprisoned journalists for nearly two decades or levied heavy fines.

This council is a continuation of his legacy, Saikou Jammeh said.

He said he hoped to re-establish trust with a skeptical public unaccustomed to accurate reporting.

You cannot claim to be a legitimate representative of the public if they do not trust you, he said. That relationship is now being built, and the public is getting more and more involved with the press. That’s the biggest qualitative difference between then and now. It is really quite amazing.

Source: Voice of America

Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan visits Tygerberg Hospital, 1 Jan

Home Affairs Deputy Minister to handover birth certificates and octopals to premature babies during New Year’s Day visit to Tygerberg Hospital.

The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Fatima Chohan, will visit Tygerberg Hospital between 10am and 11am on 1 January 2019 to address hospital management, handover birth certificates to the parents of new born babies and present the innovative octopals to at least 20 premature babies.

The octopals are essentially crocheted items that create a more comforting and soothing environment for premature babies and that help enhance their growth and healing process and make their anxious parents feel more secure, according to Octopus for a Preemie SA organisation.

This imaginative idea originated in Demark in 2013, where doctors observed premature babies with their crocheted toys. The babies that cradled their octopus (or sometimes called octopals) had overall health improvements with their breathing, regular heartbeat, strong oxygen blood levels, and were less bothered by the various monitors and IVs, pulling on and cuddling the tentacles instead of their tubes. Overall, the presence of the tiny crochet toy acted as a great calming effect on the babies with the tentacles reminding them most of their mother’s umbilical cord, says OFP SA.

The initiative was a response to the large number of premature babies born each year in the world, said to number around 15 million.

A group of young South Africans has taken up this campaign and are calling on fellow South Africans to help with this life-changing process for premature children and their families, by crocheting an octopal.

The Deputy Ministry of Home Affairs intends supporting the campaign by linking it to its Good Citizenship campaign conducted nationwide and aimed at promoting citizenship, identity and human rights, especially among vulnerable sectors.

The Deputy Ministry will help to facilitate the handing over of many more octopals over the coming months as the Department of Home Affairs continues with its birth registration processes at more than 300 health facilities countrywide.

The Deputy Minister is keen to build this partnership with the young South Africans who have taken this incredible initiative. This is in line with many other partnerships forged in various parts of the country over the past few years in which the Deputy Ministry works with sectors or organisations to promote the idea of good citizenship in theory and practice.

The Deputy Minister will be available to interact with the media during the course of the programme. All media are welcome to attend. You can report to the main entrance of Tygerberg Hospital before 10am and security will direct you to the venue where you will be met by Home Affairs officials. If you are available to attend, please confirm with me before the end of day.

Source: Government of South Africa

President saddened by Wupperthal devastation

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his sadness at the destruction by fire of community amenities and cultural assets at the Moravian mission station of Wupperthal in the Western Cape.

The blaze on Sunday, 30 December 2018, destroyed dozens of homes, the town hall, school, clinic and shopping centre in the historic village, leaving a reported 200 residents homeless.

The nation’s thoughts go out to the people of Wupperthal who have suffered terrible personal losses alongside cultural assets that are of importance to all South Africans and especially Moravian congregations across the Western Cape.

President Ramaphosa said government � notably the Departments of Local Government and Arts and Culture � would work with the Wupperthal community to being relief to the area.

The President commended initiatives launched by various communities and organisations to assist Wupperthal residents in the midst of devastation that has cast a pall over a traditional period of festivity and relaxation.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa

Chad Frees Nearly 60 Amnestied ‘Political’ Prisoners

N’DJAMENA Chad’s President Idriss Deby on Monday freed nearly 60 detainees considered political prisoners by rights groups as part of a general amnesty for former rebels, the country’s justice minister told AFP.

Those released included Moussa Tao, arrested in 2013 on a conspiracy charge; and Colonel Haroun Bata and about 10 Chadian “mercenaries” accused of having organised an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea a year ago.

“We conducted a ceremony to release 58 prisoners as part of the general amnesty,” said Justice Minister Djimet Arabi.

But former rebel Baba Ladde, jailed for eight years earlier this month, was not on the list, the minister said.

“He can still be subject to a reduced sentence or a presidential pardon,” he said.

Rights groups in Chad, who have on several occasions called for the full application of the amnesty, declared in May, welcomed the news.

Most of those released had been held for several months without trial, they said.

At the beginning of December, 12 other prisoners had been released, said Jean-Bosco Manga, spokesman for the ACAIAT group, a citizens group campaigning for a full amnesty.

Arabi said the total number of prisoners freed came to 70 and cases were still under consideration.

Source: Voice of America

Kenyan GDP Growth at 6 Percent in Third Quarter 2018

NAIROBI Kenya’s economy expanded faster in the third quarter of this year than in the same period last year due to strong performance in the agriculture and construction sectors, the statistics office said on Monday.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics said the economy grew 6 percent in the third quarter of 2018, compared with 4.7 percent in the same period in 2017.

It said the agriculture sector expanded by 5.2 percent compared with 3.7 percent in the third quarter of 2017, helped by better weather.

“Prices of key food crops remained low during the quarter compared to the corresponding quarter of 2017, an indication of relative stability in supply,” KNBS said.

Manufacturing grew by 3.2 percent from a 0.1 percent contraction in the third quarter of 2017, KNBS said.

It said that the electricity and water supply sector grew by 8.5 percent from 4.5 percent in the third quarter of 2017, mainly due to a big increase in the generation of electricity from hydro and geothermal sources.

Gross foreign reserves increased to 1,222.5 billion from 1,085.6 billion in the same period of last year.

The current account deficit narrowed by 23 percent to 116 billion Kenyan shillings ($1.14 billion), it said.

This was mainly due to lower imports of food and higher value of exports of goods and services.

The government forecasts that the economy will expand by 6.2 percent in 2019, up from a forecast 6.0 percent this year.

Source: Voice of America