Radio Erena: 06 April 2021
African Journalism in Exile: A Deserved Bestowment
African journalism had passed through different phases of growth and retreat from the years of promise after the independence and liberation of many African countries in 1960s, to the years of vanishing dreams and the shattering hopes in the following decades. In the entrapping of widespread coup d’états, from the earliest in Ghana to the recurrent ones hitting Nigeria’s past along with civil wars from Congo to Biafra and Sudan’s longest African civil war, in addition to natural disasters, the countries of the continent suffered extremely and journalism throughout Africa was the prime victim of political upheavals.
Faced with the dreadful options of death, imprisonment and exile, many journalists left their countries to strife abroad. Exile, though faintly better than the two other options, has never been a honeyed choice as it may first appear.
To be brutally uprooted, intensely hounded; and existentially threatened in exile is a proof of how hard and bitter the choice is. Much must have been written about the bitter experience of exile journalism; but the new book on this regard is different: it is the mouthpiece of the exiled journalists themselves in their frightful and risky journeys.
The recent breakthrough in the making the voice of exiled African journalist widely heard was brilliantly achieved by the worldwide German development- democracy supporter Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Hounded: The African Journalists in Exile is the lively testimony of 16 different journalists from East, Central, West and South Africa.
From Ethiopia in the East, to Nigeria in the West; and from Rwanda to the Lesotho in the South, 16 different journalists recount their experience in exile, usually after some traumatic experiences in their respective countries.
The German Foundation was planning to host a conference on the theme with the participation of many African Journalists in Exile; but the Covid-19 altered the plans. Therefore, the Foundation thought about producing the book instead. Shattering the idea that the recent times- with advanced media devices at hand- are better environment for African journalists, Mr. Christopher Plate, Director of KAS Media Africa, says in his foreword: “that assumption is wrong. Modernization and liberty are not necessarily companions: just because you can easily access digital texts in libraries across Africa today does not mean its people are freer than they were in the sixties. Or that its journalists and creative writers can write as they like.”
Mr. Plate’s statement reflects the ever-renewing suppression of journalism in the continent, which is expressed in the pages of the book by the contributing journalists.
The editing of the book has been entrusted to Joseph Odindo, a long –serving journalist and media trainer. He worked as the managing director of the prestigious Kenyan daily the Nation. He currently teaches journalism in Aga Khan University.
In his foreword, Mr. Odindo says with firm words that “Power hates Scrutiny. Many of those who rule us will pay any price to be rid of critical voices and the news platform that amplify them.” So true, that every experience in the book reflects, despite different setting and country the same fact that Mr. Odindo shared.
Three journalists from the Horn of Africa contributed in the book representing Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. The writer has the honor to share the experience his promising years in journalism in Eritrea and to recount the dark years of journalism in Eritrea.
Eritrea has no free press since 2001. More than 13 journalists are imprisoned since September, 2001 without trials and they are held in communicado, with some vibrant rumors that some of them have perished in custody. With this history in hand, Eritrea deserved the moniker ‘Africa’s North Korea’. It rested in the bottom of the list of the annual Freedom of Press Index for more than seven consecutive years.
The hope which is remaining is kindled by Eritrea journalists in Exile. Radio Erena, with more than ten-year exile journalism service is an example of securing a foothold to serve the Eritreans inside the country and abroad.
Different media awards crowned Radio Erena’s working journey. In 2017, Erena won the prestigious One World Media Award. In 2019, it won the French Ministry of Justice Human Rights Award, and in 2020, the Courage of Reporting from Nigeria.
But the most precious award is the increasing following of the Radio Erena inside the country despite several government attempts to block its transmission.
This exceptional Eritrean exile journalism saga and more is to be found in the pages of this indispensable book. An electronic copy of the book could also be obtained from the following address: www.kas.de/hounded-african-journalists-in-exile
Apologies for the previous mistake-laden first draft article.
By Fathi Osman