Nairobi, August 15, 2012--Authorities in Djibouti must immediately release a journalist for an opposition news website who has been jailed for a week without charge or access to a lawyer or his family, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Two police officers arrested Houssein Ahmed Farah, a contributor to the Europe-based news website La Voix de Djibouti (The Voice of Djibouti), on August 8, according to news reports. Three days later, a local judge ordered him to be remanded to Gabode Prison in Djibouti City, the capital, according to local journalists. Houssein is diabetic, and local journalists believe he has not been granted access to a doctor while in detention.
Authorities have accused Houssein of selling membership cards of the opposition party, the Movement for the Renewal of Democracy and Development (MRD), to Djiboutians, according to local journalists. In 2008, President Ismail Omar Guelleh banned the MRD, accusing the party of supporting neighboring Eritrea in a plot to invade the country, according to news reports. The party is appealing the ban at the Supreme Court, local journalists said.
But local journalists told CPJ they believe the accusation against Houssein is a pretext to silence the journalist's critical reporting. Houssein has written stories for La Voix de Djibouti that were critical of the ongoing detention of political prisoners, chronic shortages of water in the country, and corruption in the government's management of traffic lights, according to La Voix de Djibouti Chief Editor Dahir Ahmed Farah, who is also Houssein's brother and an MRD leader.
Repeated calls to the government spokesman and the director of communications in Djibouti were not returned.
"Authorities are holding Houssein Ahmed in apparent reprisal for his reporting," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "We hold the government of Djibouti responsible for Houssein's well-being and call for his immediate release."
Police have harassed Houssein before in connection with his human rights activism, according to news reports.
- For more data and analysis on Djibouti, visit CPJ's Djibouti page here.