, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 16 – Journalists in sub-Saharan fled into exile in 2009 like never before, creating a void in grassroots reporting, a New York-based press freedom watchdog said in a report launched on Tuesday.
At the launch of "Attacks on the Press in 2009", the Committee to Protect Journalists\’ Africa coordinator Tom Rhodes said his organisation had never observed such an exile rate in almost three decades of existence.
"So many journalists are fleeing their countries, we\’ve never seen this before," Rhodes told reporters and officials in Nairobi.
He said the exodus was due in part to 2009 having been the deadliest year in a decade for journalists in sub-Saharan African, with 12 reporters killed, in Somalia, but also in Kenya, Nigeria and Madagascar.
Rhodes said East Africa was the region where the plight of journalists was the most alarming with violence and government restrictions in Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea forcing dozens into exile.
"This has not created an information vacuum, but it has created misinformation," he said.
He said that estimates suggest that around 80 professional journalists have fled Somalia over the past three years and around 40 left the tiny west African nation of Gambia in recent years.
This exile rate impacts on local and international reporting, Rhodes said. In many countries, the flight of some of the best journalists leaves the foreign press with few reliable sources.
The CPJ report also pointed out that a fast-changing media industry where a number of well-established organisations can no longer afford foreign bureaus was leaving local reporters in unstable countries more exposed.
Last year was the deadliest ever recorded globally by the watchdog with 71 journalists killed. Three have already been killed this year.