- The editor of the independent Comoran weekly 'L'Archipel', who also leads the national press organisation, was detained for over two days following critical reports in his newspaper. The weekly had disclosed dissatisfaction within the army after alleged corruption and favouritism. Comoros holds the dubious world record in military coups and coup attempts.
Aboubacar Mchangama, president of the Comoran Print Media Organisation (l'Organisation comorienne de la presse écrite, OCPE), was taken into custody in the early morning of 25 March by a judicial brigade of the Moroni police force and immediately placed in detention. The arrest was set in connection with articles published in Mr Mchangama's weekly newspaper.
Several army officers filed a complaint with the 'L'Archipel' editor following his 8 February publication of an article that stated that there were rumblings of discontent over the promotion to commander of three officers on the basis of friendships, according to the newspaper's sources.
Then, on 15 March, the independent Comoran newspaper reported that the officers who had expressed their discontent over the promotions had received disciplinary action. These officers then blamed the journalists for the sanctions inflicted upon them.
Unconfirmed local sources indicated that the Comoran editor was arrested for "moral and material prejudice". Before being placed in detention, Mr Mchangama had already been interrogated by officials under the guise of "an internal investigation", according to information gathered by the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).
Mr Mchangama later was detained in the Comoran capital, Moroni. Here, he was held for 54 hours - more than two days. According to local sources and RSF, the legal time limit for any person to be held in detention in Comoros is 24 hours, which is renewable only once.
Also the basis for the editor's detention is questionable according to Comoran legislation. Normally, authorities in Comoros accept press freedom, but there have been occasional incidents where journalists have been detained over their publications.
Especially the armed forces of Comoros are seen to be a "state within the state" and enjoy great freedom. Comoros has been haunted by military coups since independence in 1975 and current President Assoumani Azali also came to power in a 1999 military coup, although he later legitimised his powers in elections. Civilian authorities nevertheless remain cautious not to provoke the armed forces.
The arrest of Mr Mchangama has caused protests in Comoros and internationally as it is seen as an attack on press freedom. The Comoran press organisation OCPE and the French group RSF today published a protest, condemning the arrest on these reasons.
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