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» 22.09.2010 - US fundamentalists "fight proxy war" in Uganda, Rwanda
» 22.04.2010 - Rwanda opposition leader conditionally released
» 21.04.2010 - Rwanda opposition leader arrested
» 02.03.2010 - Former Rwandan first lady arrested
» 26.02.2010 - Rwandan officer sentenced to 25 years
» 18.02.2010 - Rwanda hosts 2010 global environment day
» 11.02.2010 - Rwanda to get first eID in six months
» 10.02.2010 - Rwanda urged to cease hostilities

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Equatorial Guinean leader tops Africa's media predators

afrol News, 2 May - President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of the oil-rich "Kuwait of Africa" has topped the Paris-based Reporters sans frontières (RSF) list of press predators in Africa.

Mr Nguema was followed by Presidents of Eritrea Issaias Afeworki and The Gambia Yahya Jammeh. Other predators include Nigeria's State Security Service, Presidents of Rwanda and Zimbabwe, Paul Kagame and Robert Mugabe.

Also on the list are members of Somalia's Al-Shabaab armed group, Mohamed Dhere, Governor and Mayor of Mogadishu and Mohamed Warsame Darwish, head of national security agency in Somalia.

No privately-owned media is allowed to operate in Equatorial Guinea except a semi-clandestine opposition newsletter regularly harassed by the regime, leaving the control of the economy in the hands of the President and his family. The Nguema regime is also blamed for closely monitoring the few local journalists freelancing for the foreign media.

His regime blamed democracy on poverty and not intolerance of those who criticise Obiang Nguema’s power “to kill someone without being punished or going to hell,” as the state radio puts it.

The Eritrean President officially suspended basic freedoms in 2001 after the ruling party dissidents called for democracy. Since then, every hint of the opposition is linked to "treason." Ruled harshly by an ultra-nationalist group, Eritrea has become a prison where the privately-owned media has been shut down. Only the state media are allowed to preach a rigid line.

Worst of all is that 16 journalists, including a distinguished playwright, Fessehaye Yohannes, have vanished into the country's 314. Some of them have reportedly died in harsh and cruel conditions. The Afeworki regime first called journalists common-law prisoners, then spies and then simply denied their existence.

The RSF blamed the Gambian leader of bragging of his contempt for journalists, which was why he has cracked down on all critics through personal guard and secret police in the form of arrests, threats and bomb attacks against the media. His government continued to be blamed for cowering journalists into exile as well as failure to arrest or punish the killers of a leading newspaper editor, Deyda Hydara gunned down on 16 December 2004.

Journalists are illegally arrested on the slightest pretext at the president’s whim, even though The Gambia is the headquarters of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. He continues to insist that “if I want to shut down a newspaper, I will.”

Nigeria's fearsome State Security Service is also accused of carrying out the government's dirty works, including ransacking media offices, making illegal arrests and arbitrarily throwing people in prison. It is in the habit of intimidating journalists through raids, beatings and tough interrogations.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is known for his intolerance to embarrassing questions at press conferences, frequently insults independent journalists and dismisses all critical media outlets.

His government also attacks any journalist, local or foreign, who puts out news it does not like or which violates the taboos of the society built by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which came to power after overthrowing the genocidal Hutu regime and ending its massacres.

In addition to deporting a foreign journalist in 2006, a newspaper editor was beaten up and another heavily sanctioned for a political commentary. As a result, each year local journalists who are unable to work in such stifling conditions, flee into exile. Mr Kagame labels journalists as "mercenaries" and "down-and-outs."

Somalia's Al-Shabaab armed group has gradually emerged as the most fearsome subversive machine operating in Somalia. This group of "young combatants" are known for supervising a campaign of terror and targeted murders against people of all walks of life, including journalists, teachers, doctors and academics.

Mugabe has been tackled on his regime's introduction of the strict 2002 information law that allows the government to monitor the media. The 2003 ban on the country’s most popular newspaper, 'The Daily News' was described by Mugabe as simply a bureaucratic move.

President Mugabe is also accused for ordering the arrest of local and foreign journalists, who he accuses of spying because they do not obey the regime’s strict rules, and uses threats and legal harassment in a bid to silence them. Zimbabwean radio stations based abroad are jammed, using Chinese equipment, and the former “breadbasket” of southern Africa is now one of the continent’s most repressive countries.

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia [Meles Zenawi], King Mswati III of Swaziland and the leader of Côte d’Ivoire's Young Patriot, Charles Blé Goudé, have had their names removed from the list of the updated media predators in Africa.

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