World Journalists meet at CPJ International Conference
A KANERE senior writer attended an international conference hosted by the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Rory Peck Trust in Nairobi last December.
The representatives of media organizations meet during this occasion to streamline new strategies for East African journalists in exile. The international community came together to try to help exiled journalists by looking into means of developing networking and building mechanisms which could help exiled journalists in the region.
Participants included the Committee to Protect Journalists in association with the Rory Peck Trust, media legal defense representatives, the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma, regional East African and international human rights and free press advocates, defenders organizations, and the Refugee Free Press. The Conference was held at the Fairview Hotel from 11th – 14th Dec. 2011. The Fairview Hotel is considered to be among the best hotels in Nairobi regarding security.
There were four full days of discussions regarding assistance for East African journalists in exile. A KANERE official took part in the one-hour panel: “Sustainable Initiatives beyond Assistance.” Panelists discussed initiatives to empower exiled journalist. This panel engendered lively debate. The community of East African exiled journalist has identified different issues affecting the daily lives of journalists in exile, including: unproductive job opportunities while in exile; legal protection insecurity; and limited opportunities for sustainable livelihood. As refugees, exiled journalists in UNHCR camps are among the most affected. One Ethiopian exiled journalist at KANERE shared his experience and suffering. Elias Lemma was forced out of Ethiopia after exposing government secret scandals in the Maebel newspaper where he was Chief Editor in 2002.
Mr. Lemma worked at the Maebel, Andenet and Fikirsewa newspapers, which are based in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. He lived in a suburb of Nairobi for about five years with more than a dozen other exiled journalists from Ethiopia who have fled due to death threats. In 2007, he applied for durable solution to the Kenya Branch Office of UNHCR following attacks on Ethiopian journalists under UNHCR protection in Nairobi on September 6, 2006. UNHCR has not made any progress in his case even after he moved to Kakuma after several security problems in Nairobi. “Exile is a different world. We’re merely alive and only better than death. We are not living normal life,” said Lemma who is now 38 and the oldest exiled journalist in KANERE.
The aim of the conference was to find sustainable and cohesive solutions to the problems E. African journalists and freelancers in exile face. Exiled journalists are suffering with any right to livelihood in the region. Exiled journalists in refugee camps are in even more vulnerable situations compared to their colleagues in urban settings. It is not easy to secure job opportunities. In UNHCR refugee camps, it is a humanitarian cliché that “however a refugee is educated, whatever his/her professional background, h/she must be a member of the ‘incentive’ wage-earning class not to be contracted for salaries.”
Many exiled journalists fear insecurity, disappearances and even death while under the protection UNHCR. It is important for global journalists and diaspora media outlets to be involved in advocating and lobbying with local authorities for proper protection for journalists and for their freedom of expression according to ethical codes and principles.
Since its launch, members of the KANERE staff have been physically attacked several times and had equipment destroyed and their homes in the camp damaged. Reporters without Borders wrote to the UNHCR officials in charge of the Kakuma Camp in June 2010 asking them to provide better protection for KANERE members. As the harassment has continued, Reporters without Borders wrote a second letter to UNHCR in the mid of June 2011.
Death threats have driven many journalists into exile. And a large number of journalists have been forced to narrowly escape death from East and Horn of African. For instance, governments like that of Ethiopia have anti-terrorism laws that allow them to censure both national and international journalists like the two Swedish journalist who were recently sentenced to 11 year in prison under the terrorism law in that country.
Free press groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders often report widespread violations of Ethiopian journalists. To read more about the conference and CPJ’s work, please click on the following URL link: