- Djibouti authorities again have moved against the private weekly magazine 'Le Renouveau', one of the only media voicing a critical tone against the government. The brother of the weekly's editor, who also acts as a journalist, has been arrested for posing a possible threat to the Djiboutian First Lady.
While 'Le Renouveau' editor Daher Ahmed Farah has been detained various times by Djibouti police during the last year, this time the turn had come to his brother. Houssein Ahmed Farah, a journalist with 'Le Renouveau' newspaper on 8 June 2004 was arrested by Djiboutian police officers in the capital, Djibouti city.
The journalist was returning from Djibouti city's Arhiba neighbourhood, where he was covering a popular demonstration for 'Le Renouveau', when police ordered him to stop his vehicle during the passage of Kadra Mahamoud Haïd's procession. Ms Mahamoud is the wife of Djibouti's President Ismaël Omar Guelleh.
When taken to the police station the journalist first was told that he had been detained for making an attempt on the life of Ms Mahamoud. Mr Farah has later been formally been charged with "endangering the First Lady's procession."
Mr Farah was detained in a police station cell for over four days, "far exceeding the legal limit of 96 hours for holding persons in custody," according to the Toronto-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The journalist was then transferred to Gabode central prison, on the outskirts of the capital.
- He was placed in solitary confinement in what is considered to be the penitentiary's harshest cell block, with temperatures exceeding 45°C, no running water, minimal ventilation, and sewer water surrounding the cells, IFJ reports. Mr Farah is not being allowed any visits or contact with other persons.
Houssein Ahmed Farah is the brother of Daher Ahmed Farah, editor-in-chief and managing editor of 'Le Renouveau', who has been frequently jailed by the authorities on trumped up charges. Daher is also the President of the MRD opposition party.
In 2003, Daher Ahmed Farah was jailed in Gabode prison several times, at one occasion passing about sixty dsays in the maximum security facility under the harshest possible conditions. Legal action aimed at closing his paper is currently underway in Djibouti's Supreme Court.
The arrest of Houssein Ahmed Farah has caused outrage among international press freedom organisations. IFJ earlier this week called the incident an "arbitrary arrest" and urged Djiboutian authorities to release the journalist "without delay and end attacks on free expression."
Also the Paris-based group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) today has "vigorously" denounced "this arrest based on absurd reasons." According to an RSF statement, "the only objective of the detention is by all the means to gag the dissident voice of 'Le Renouveau'."
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