Ismaïl Omar GUELLEH
President of Djibouti since 8 May 1999
Predator since taking office
Djibouti, 176th/180 countries 2021 World Press Freedom Index
PREDATORY METHOD: Totalitarian dictatorship
The Djibouti government exercises ruthless control over freedom of news and information. In this tiny state in the Horn of Africa, only a handful of media outlets charged with passing on the government’s propaganda and communications are allowed to operate. The others are driven underground, into exile or are suppressed. A vast arsenal of predation is deployed to prevent the advent of independent journalism: sources working for foreign media hunted down, arrests, raids, judicial harassment, threats, surveillance, Internet access deliberately restricted, radio stations jammed, news sites censored… Asked in 2020 by Jeune Afrique magazine about the complete lack of independent news organisations in his country, Guelleh cited high costs and a small market. In Africa, the Seychelles, with one-tenth of Djibouti’s population, has a television station, two radio stations and three privately-owned newspapers. The reason for the blockage is political rather than financial. A national commission responsible for issuing broadcasting licences has never been appointed despite being prescribed in the 1992 Freedom of Communication Law. That law itself is a serious obstacle to freedom of news and information, for example imposing prison sentences for press offences and setting age and nationality requirements for the creation of news organisations.
FAVOURITE TARGETS: All critical voices
OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Obfuscation
“The correspondents you are talking about are not proper journalists, but sometimes barely literate fellows who use it as a cover. By the way, we have imprisoned no one.” (Ismaïl Omar Guelleh talking about the journalists of La Voix de Djibouti in an interview with Jeune Afrique, November 2020).