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Enforcement of colonial & apartheid-era laws limits press freedom & endangers human rights defenders in Southern Africa

Author: Jonathan Rozen, Quartz Africa, Published on: 17 December 2018

"Colonial and Apartheid-era laws still govern press freedom in southern Africa", 7 December 2018.

Walking from the offices of her newspaper on 10 October 2018, Sylvanie Kiaku did not expect to be arrested by officers of the judicial police. Kiaku, the editor of the La Percée, also did not expect to be detained or charged with criminal defamation using a 1940 law originally written by the European colonizers of her country, Democratic Republic of the Congo. In early November, she was sentenced to three months imprisonment for two articles she published in September describing the lasting damage caused by a major Congolese bank’s failure to pay workers’ salaries for over 10 years...Two years later in Namibia, a country frequently lauded for its free press credentials, a law from decades under South African apartheid rule, the 1982 Protection of Information Act, was cited in an effort by the Namibia Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) to halt The Patriot newspaper from publishing about former NCIS members and land deals...The Protection of Information Act No. 84 of 1982, which prohibits the disclosure of confidential information for a purpose deemed prejudicial to the security or interests of the state, also remains law in South Africa. In February 2018 it was used to justify a police raid on the home of journalist Jacques Pauw following the publication of his book about the financial and political dealings of former South African president Jacob Zuma...Colonial and apartheid era laws were not written for democratic African societies or a free press. Yet they remain at the behest of independent African governments. As long as these laws remain on the books, the intentions of their authors will continue reaching forward through history to define what African journalists are permitted to report, as they did for Kiaku on her way home from work.

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