Security forces are seen at the Port of Djibouti on March 9, 2018. Authorities recently arrested two journalists covering protests in the country, and a third is in hiding. (AFP/Jonathan Ernst/Pool)

One journalist in hiding, 2 others detained over protest coverage in Djibouti

New York, June 17, 2020 — Authorities in Djibouti should stop harassing journalists working with the La Voix de Djibouti broadcaster, and ensure that the press can cover matters of public interest without intimidation, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On June 5, police in the southern city of Ali Sabieh arrested Kassim Nour Abar, a reporter with the Paris-based privately owned radio station and news website, while he was preparing to cover protests in the city, according to his lawyer, Zakaria Abdillahi, who spoke to CPJ over the phone.

Protests were held across Djibouti in early June over the detention and alleged mistreatment of an air force pilot, according to news reports.

Also on June 5, Osman Yonis Bogoreh, another reporter at the outlet, went into hiding after police arrived at a protest he was covering in the country’s capital, Djibouti City, he told CPJ.

On June 7, police in Djibouti City arrested Mohamed Ibrahim Waiss, another La Voix de Djibouti reporter who also works as a correspondent for the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, while he was reporting on the protests, according to Zakaria and reports from the broadcaster and the press freedom group.

Authorities released Abar on June 8 and Waiss on June 10, both without charge, according to Zakaria and Reporters Without Borders. Bogoreh told CPJ that he remains in hiding as of today.

“Authorities in Djibouti must halt the repeated arrests and intimidation against journalists working with La Voix de Djibouti,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “Osman Yonis Bogoreh should be permitted to work without fear, and those responsible for the arbitrary arrest and detention of Kassim Nour Abar and Mohamed Ibrahim Waiss should be held accountable for their actions.”

La Voix de Djibouti was founded by Daher Ahmed Farah, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Renewal party, and is known for its criticism of Djibouti’s government, according to CPJ research. Waiss was at the private office of Djama Houssein Robleh, the secretary general of the party, when he was arrested, according to Zakaria.

Police confiscated Robleh’s computer, which Waiss was using to file his reporting, and Abar’s phone and computer during their arrests and did not return them, according to Zakaria and Reporters Without Borders.

Bogoreh told CPJ that police officers arrived at his mother’s house on June 6 and asked about his whereabouts, but did not say why they were looking for him.

Mahamoud Djama, the editor in chief and director of La Voix de Djibouti, told CPJ over the phone that many of the outlet’s correspondents are under government surveillance.

Zakaria told CPJ that the journalists’ arrests and detentions were illegal because neither was brought before a judge within 48 hours of their arrest, as is required by Article 64 of Djibouti’s penal procedure code.

CPJ called the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Justice for comment, but no one answered. CPJ called the Djibouti police on June 10, and a representative asked to be called back in one hour. When CPJ repeatedly called back, the line disconnected before the representative was able to comment.

On October 24, 2019, police arrested Bogoreh in Djibouti City, questioned him about his work for La Voix de Djibouti, and beat him, before taking him to an area outside the city, tying him naked to a tree, and filming as officers beat him again, according to Bogoreh and a report by the International Federation for Human Rights, a human rights advocacy group.

Officers released him without charge on October 26, but agents with Djibouti’s national security service arrested him again on October 30 and held him November 4, before releasing him without charge, according to Bogoreh and that report.