Society

African journalists ‘hounded’ into exile

journalists

Joseph Odindo (centre) with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Director Media Programme Sub-Sahara Africa Christoph Plate (left) during the launch of a book titled ‘Hounded African Journalists in Exile’ at the Trademark Hotel , in Nairobi on March 16, 2021. FILE PHOTO | NMG

margarettawagacheru_img

Summary

  • Stories of 16 African journalists who had to flee their countries often for their lives can be painful reading.
  • But it’s also revealing of the underbelly of all these African countries where simply doing their job as journalists could make them be deemed ‘traitors’, ‘enemies of the state’, and even criminals.

For anyone having an interest in investigative journalism, and especially investigative journalism in Africa, then Hounded: African Journalists in Exile is a must-read.

Stories of 16 African journalists who had to flee their countries often for their lives can be painful reading. But it’s also revealing of the underbelly of all these African countries where simply doing their job as journalists could make them be deemed ‘traitors’, ‘enemies of the state’, and even criminals who could be literally hounded both inside their home country and out.

The 16 stories are all very different. Some are bloggers like Makaila N’Guebla of Chad. Others actually founded their own newspapers, like Wilf Mbanga of Zimbabwe, while others were popular TV anchors like Mimi Mefo Takambou of Cameroon or guerilla radio programmers like Dapo Olorunyomi of Nigeria.

Yet their stories also have some similarities. For one, they all have a passion for truth telling and ‘doing their job’ as journalists who cherish accountability, transparency and freedom of expression. All are critical thinkers who weren’t prepared to equivocate or indulge in self-censorship as the one Kenyan in the book, Pius Nyamora, says many of his media colleagues did during the Moi era.

Yet Nyamora, like others in Hounded who had to literally flee for their lives, paid a high price for refusing to turn a blind eye on corruption and other abuses of power they sought to expose through their media. For most of them, exile was not a choice. It was a necessity since their whistle-blowing was too much for the thin-skinned Big Men in their countries to tolerate. They were often targeted, and in some cases, detained, tortured, or interrogated for hours until they found means of getting out of their countries.

Many left their families behind, and few knew what kind of life they would encounter in exile. Some were able to continue their crusade against their government’s corruption like Togolese blogger Farida Nabourema. Meanwhile, at least one, Abdalla Ahmed Mumin chose to move back to Mogadishu after years in exile because he felt compelled to tell the world the Somalia story with his ear to the ground.

One vital feature of Hounded is that the journalists have each told their own story, unfiltered and only edited by Kenya’s own Joseph Odindo during these days and months of the pandemic.

Yet their stories are never without context so their writings also reveal the political, social, and economic dimensions of their struggles.

At the same time, their stories are deeply personal even as each one sheds light on the ‘media blackout’ that had hit their countries due to the repression, corruption, and insecurities of despotic leaders.

The countries represented in the book include Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Published by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, one hopes the KAS Media Programme will come out with a second volume of ‘Hounded’ so we can read more revelatory reports defying Africa’s other ‘media black-outs’.