Of the thousands of relentless scribes who dig for a story, dodge bullets, follow paper trails, shine a light in the darkness, some 220 news writers around the world will spend New Year’s this year in a faraway jail.
This month, Kenyan writer Janet Otieno-Prosper dedicated her essay in the Africa Review to remembering the public watchdogs arrested for their attempt to tell the truth.
“I have dwelt on many subjects, from women and children rights, to environment and health,” she wrote. “Today, I use this column to give a toast to those journalists who will be spending their Christmas, and perhaps New Year, in jail.”
A list prepared by the NY-based Committee to Protect Journalists gives the story.
“Ethiopian journalist Temesghen Desalegn jailed with 17 colleagues after a court in Addis Ababa convicted him in connection with opinion pieces published in the now defunct Feteh news magazine. He was sentenced this October to three years on charges of defamation and incitement.
Eritrea shames Africa with 23 in jail (Ethiopia has 17). Vietnam follows closely with 16 as Egypt and Syria each follow at 12.
“DR Congo, Cameroon, Swaziland, Somalia and Morocco complete the list for Africa,” she wrote.
Others include: Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste and his colleagues Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, found guilty by an Egyptian court of “spreading false news.” Sentence was seven years apiece.
In Gambia, Ebrima Manneh from the Daily Observer has been in prison since 2006 and his exact whereabouts are unknown, though many reports suggest that he has since died in the hands of government security agencies.
“You see, to survive as a journalist in Ethiopia, Gambia and other African countries, you have to toe the government line. So, here is a toast for all of you my colleagues since this job is a calling and needs a thick skin.
‘Journalism is not for the faint-hearted.’