The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the inhumane prison conditions of a local journalist in Djibouti and called on the government to release him immediately.
Daher Ahmed Farah, editor and publisher of a weekly paper, le Renouveau and President of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development was initially convicted as a result of a libel suit brought against him by the army's Chief of Staff, General Zakaria Cheik Ibrahim in April.
Subsequently, on July 9, the Djibouti appeals court sentenced him to three months in Gabode prison, from where he had been released by a lower court’s decision on June 23. Farah was ordered to pay civil damages of €65,000, close to €5,000 in criminal fines and was also given an additional three-month suspended sentence.
The court also banned the publication of le Renouveau for a six-month period. Subsequently, police confiscated all the possessions and material of the newspaper. Farah is currently being held in solitary confinement, with negligible water provisions in extremely hot weather conditions.
“Such actions contravene both the Djibouti constitution itself as well as violating international agreements,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Djibouti must respect the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an agreement which it signed in February, if it is to maintain a shred of integrity in the eyes of the world”.
The government owns the principal newspaper, La Nation, as well as Television Djibouti (RTD), which operates the national radio and TV. Many independent journalists have been forced to emigrate in order to receive training, and several of those who remain have no option but to pursue an alternative career. Djibouti has no formal association of journalists, despite several attempts to form one.
The IFJ is calling on the Djibouti government to release Mr. Farah, and to lift the ban on his newspaper. “Cracking down on the media coupled with draconian-style laws and imprisonment, will only serve to destroy the prospects for democracy in Djibouti,” said White.
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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries