The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today urged authorities in Djibouti to put an end to media repression in the country after the government recently attacked a newspaper that published an article critical of the President’s brother-in-law.
Houssein Ahmed Farah, faces trial in connection with the article critical of the President’s brother-in-law, which was published in the newspaper for which he writes Le Renouveau.
The article was not signed, according to the management of Le Renouveau, which said its editor, who is also Houssein’s brother, should be the only one held responsible for it. The arrest of Houssein Farah fits in a recent wave of arrests of the close relatives of Daher Ahmed Farah who is Editor of Le Renouveau, president of the main opposition party the Movement for the Democratic Revival (MRD) and Houssein’s brother. Daher is currently abroad.
After four days in jail, Houssein appeared before a court on Sunday 11 February for libelling Djama Mahamoud Haid, governor of the national bank and brother-in-law of President Ismael Omar Guelleh.
“We call on the government to put an end to this ridiculous trial and to this repression of journalists,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “Houssein is only guilty of being Daher’s brother and he should not be held responsible for the article nor be used as a pawn by the government. This is a shameful attack on what is supposed to be a free press in Djibouti.”
Houssein Farah was held from 7 to 10 February. His arrest in connection with the article followed that of another MRD official, a Le Renouveau staff member and Daher Farah’s cousin, among others. They were all released.
After the article was published, Daher’s house and newspaper headquarters were searched twice by police who confiscated material. Police seized a computer and printing equipment at the newspaper office, preventing Le Renouveau’s publication since 8 February.
“We ask for the restitution without delay of the confiscated material and the end of this crackdown of the press, which has already suffered enough from the non-observance of legal procedures by the Djibouti authorities,” Baglo said.
Since 2003 Daher has regularly been imprisoned and his brother Houssein was also jailed in 2004. Proceedings to shut down the newspaper were even started by the authorities.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries