Attacks on the Press 1999: Comoros

Despite efforts to resolve secessionist tensions that have long beset the three Indian Ocean islands of Comoros, ongoing political conflict has done little to foster a free press.

On the island of Anjouan, the employees of Radio Ushababi, established in June 1999 by journalists opposing the local separatist movement, were repeatedly harassed and interrogated by local police. The station was also threatened by separatist militiamen, who protested in front of its offices on several occasions. In August, Radio Ushababi suspended broadcasting because of security threats. Later that month, political violence broke out on the island, with many anti-separatists fleeing to the French territory of Mayotte.

In October, tensions mounted between supporters and opponents of the new military ruler, Col. Azali Assoumani, over the arrest and threatened trial of journalist Aboubacar Mchangama. The journalist was arrested for refusing to identify a senior military source who had briefed him about discontent within the army.

October 14
Aboubacar Mchangama, L’Archipel, Agence France-Presse IMPRISONED

Mchangama, director of the independent weekly L’Archipel and a local correspondent for Agence France Presse, was arrested by police officers in the capital, Moroni. He was detained and charged with publishing false information in connection with a report that he had written for L’Archipel about tense relations between the government and some members of the armed forces.

On October 21, authorities released Mchangama, who also writes for the Paris-based press freedom advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières, on condition that he remain in Comorian territory and report to authorities once a week.