Comorian journalist Oubeidillah Mchangama was arrested in November 2019 while covering a protest in Moroni, the capital, in a live-stream for Facebook news outlet FCBK FM. He has been charged with disturbance of public order and illegal demonstration.
Police arrested Oubeidillah, a reporter for FCBK FM, on November 30 while he was live-streaming a protest by women in Moroni calling for government reform, according to a report by Radio France Internationale and Abdoulbastoi Moudjahid, one of Oubeidillah’s lawyers, who spoke to CPJ over messaging app.
FCBK FM often posts criticism of the Comoros government, according to CPJ’s review of the page.
In the live-stream video, security forces can be seen arresting protesters, and Oubeidillah can be heard telling security forces that he is a journalist, before he is told to stop recording and the video ends.
Police arrested Oubeidillah and detained him at the Moroni Gendarmerie until December 3, when Oubeidillah appeared before a prosecutor and was charged with “disturbance of public order and illegal demonstration” and was transferred to Moroni Prison, Abdoulbastoi said.
More than a dozen protesters were also charged at that hearing and were released, but Oubeidillah was required to stay in detention until his next court date on December 7, 2019, Abdoulbastoi said.
Abdoulbastoi said that while Oubeidillah had been granted access to a lawyer, his three days in detention without being presented before a judge violated Comoros’ code of criminal procedure.
Oubeidillah was previously arrested in February 2019 along with FCBK FM reporter Abdallah Abdou Hassane, and was charged with defamation, disturbing public order, incitement to violence, offence against the head of state, insulting the magistrate, forgery, and use of false materials, and was questioned about Facebook posts that were critical of the Comoros government, according to CPJ research. He was not tried and was released after four months, according to the report by RFI.
In a conversation over messaging app with CPJ, Comoros Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed El-Amine Souef disputed that Mchangama was arrested for his journalism, and said the Comorian government considers him to have been a protest organizer.