While the rest of the world celebrated freedom of the press and while neighbouring Somalia’s president announced that press offences will be decriminalized there, the government headed by President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh continued to persecute independent reporting in Djibouti. A reporter for La Voix de Djibouti (LVD), a web TV and radio station broadcasting to Djibouti from Belgium, Charmarke Saïd Darar was arrested at 10:45 p.m. on 3 May while covering a fire in a low-income district of the capital, Djibouti City.
According to the information obtained by RSF, he is being held at Hodan police station in the western suburb of Balbala. He is in a small cell with other detainees and has no protection against infection although, relative to the size of its population, Djibouti has been hit harder by Covid-19 than most other African countries, with more than 1,000 cases and two dead. He has not had access to a lawyer or doctor, and the police have taken his phone and are currently scrutinizing its contents.
“We firmly condemn this arbitrary arrest, the latest example of a predatory system that leaves no room for information,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “Djibouti has been hit harder by the coronavirus than most African countries, so continuing to persecute reporters trying to cover the news in conditions that are increasingly difficult because of the health crisis violates not only the freedom to inform but also the basic rights of access to information and health. This journalist must be freed at once.”
La Voix de Djibouti and its reporters are often targeted by the Djiboutian authorities. As access to its website, Lavoixdedjibouti.info, has been repeatedly blocked within Djibouti, RSF recently added it to the list of “Operation Collateral Freedom” sites that it “unblocks” by creating mirrors of the sites in locations that make them hard to block.
As RSF reported at the time, another of La Voix de Djibouti’s correspondents, Osman Yonis Borogeh, was arrested twice last October, when he was badly beaten by police and was questioned about his links with the MRD, Djibouti’s main opposition party, and about the identity of La Voix de Djibouti’s other correspondents.
La Voix de Djibouti’s correspondents often work anonymously and clandestinely to avoid the reprisals to which journalists not working for the state media are exposed. Journalists working for Djibouti’s state media are restricted to providing state propaganda.
Djibouti is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than in 2019.