On Friday, March 24, the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims was commemorated. This day was observed at a time when there are key developments in the political, socio-economic, and legal environment across Africa that continue to restrict media freedom and freedom of expression.

This includes attacks on journalists reporting on elections and in conflict zones, and digital threats like surveillance and online harassment, among others. On the legal front, governments are relying on criminal code provisions, cybersecurity, and cybercrime laws as well as anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws to prosecute journalists for legitimate expression and to restrict the work of media organizations and press freedom groups. 

Impunity also continues to thrive with cases of gross human rights violations involving the media, including the killings of journalists, not being thoroughly investigated and prosecuted..

As part of the International Press Institute (IPI)’s Africa press freedom monitoring and advocacy there are several cases of press freedom violations that deserve to be highlighted and whose victims deserve truth and dignity. 

One such case is the matter relating to Cameroonian journalist Martinez Zogo, a radio reporter who reported on corruption, and who was abducted, tortured, and murdered in January 2023. Though some state officials were arrested in connection with this murder, the path to justice remains long.  To date, Zogo has not been buried as his family continues to call for justice. 

A recent report by Voice of America highlights that Zogo’s family has also been receiving threats from some of the individuals that are under investigation. 

Another Cameroonian journalist, Jean Jacques Ola Bebe, was killed in February 2023 by unknown individuals.  Prior to his murder, he reportedly indicated in an interview that he was receiving death threats which he suspected were from state authorities. 

To date, the whereabouts of Azory Gwanda, a Tanzanian journalist who disappeared in November 2017, are also yet to be known. There has also not been any justice over the murder of Ghanaian journalist Ahmed Suale who was gunned down in January 2019, nor any progress into investigating who was behind the disappearance of journalist Ibrahim Mbaruco in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, in April 2020.

The above saves to show that there are several cases highlighting torture, enforced disappearance and the murder of journalists in Africa which have remained unresolved. More work therefore needs to be undertaken to ensure that the safety and security of journalists remain a priority for all stakeholders while ensuring the speedy investigation and conclusion of matters and that the perpetrators are held accountable. 

Of note is the fact that press freedom violations do not only impact the individual journalists concerned but also their families and the profession as a whole. Among fellow journalists, this poses risks of self-censorship and subsequently to the rest of the public, as it limits their access to information.

It is in that regard that the below recommendations are proffered to all states and responsible state agencies as part of promoting the right to truth and the dignity of victims of press freedom violations:

  • Develop laws and policies that have protection mechanisms for the safety and security of human rights defenders including journalists. 
  • Ensure that cases involving press freedom violations are thoroughly investigated without any external interference. 
  • Ensure that perpetrators of press freedom violations are held accountable including individuals from security services or state agencies. 
  • Reaffirm state commitments to protecting and promoting media freedom and freedom of expression both online and offline and publicly condemn all forms of attacks on journalists. 


Nompilo Simanje is the Africa Advocacy and Partnerships Lead at the International Press Institute.