Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arrests of two Djiboutian journalists working for La Voix de Djibouti (LVD), their small Horn of African country's only independent media outlet, and calls for their unconditional release. One of them is also RSF's Djibouti correspondent.
Kassim Nouh Abar was arrested outside his Djibouti City home on 5 June, while Mohamed Ibrahim Wais, RSF's correspondent, was arrested yesterday as he went to meet a detained army officer's lawyer, RSF was told by his editor at LVD, which broadcasts to Djibouti from Belgium.
In interviews and photos, both journalists had been covering what has been Djibouti's biggest story for the past week, the video that Lt. Fouad Youssouf Ali, a detained former air force pilot, managed to smuggle out of his prison cell. The video describes the terrible conditions in which he is being held and his conviction that he will not get out alive. After criticizing the Djiboutian government in an earlier video made in Ethiopia, where he had sought refuge, Ali has been imprisoned since 22 April in Djibouti, to which he was extradited after being arrested in Ethiopia. The circulation of this new, prison video has triggered daily demonstrations in Djibouti, which the authorities have dispersed every day for the past few days.
The interior ministry and the police general directorate in Djibouti City could not be reached for an explanation this morning.
"These journalists were just doing their job by covering a major news story," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. "By trying to silence them, the authorities are drawing attention to a subject they find troubling. Mohamed, who also works for our organization, is a very conscientious and courageous reporter. RSF is mobilizing all of its resources and its network so that these journalists are released quickly and unconditionally."
LVD's correspondents are often threatened and arrested arbitrarily. Wais has repeatedly been arrested during the past ten years and has spent several months in prison as a result of his journalistic activities.
AS RSF reported at the time, LVD correspondent Osman Yonis Borogeh was arrested twice last October, when he was badly beaten by police and was questioned with the aim of establishing the identity of his sources and of La Voix de Djibouti's other correspondents.
Another LVD correspondent, Charmarke Saïd Darar, was arrested while covering a fire just five weeks ago, on 3 May (World Press Freedom Day) and was held for four days.
Djibouti is ranked 176th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.