Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Although the freedoms of speech and of the press are protected by the 2001 constitution, in practice, journalists are subject to harassment and harsh defamation laws. Conditions for journalists worsened during 2007 following the escalation of tensions between the central government and the semiautonomous island of Anjouan, where presidential elections were held in June to reelect Mohamed Bacar despite the central government’s opposition. However, the media environment varied considerably among the union’s three islands, with slightly greater levels of freedom on Grand Comore and Moheli and greater levels of repression on Anjouan as Bacar attempted to limit criticism of his regime.
On May 16, gendarmes on Anjouan detained four journalists for a day following their attempts to secure transmitters that Bacar’s supporters had damaged. On May 30, owing to published pictures of soldiers who had been captured in Anjouan, copies of the independent monthly L’Archipel were removed from stores by union police, and the paper’s director, Aboubacar M’changama, was held for questioning. In June, Elarifou Minihadji, a reporter with Grand Comore’s regional government station, Radio Ngazidja, was held for three days and subjected to mistreatment by gendarmes on Anjouan for covering a demonstration at the island’s airport in response to the arrival of African Union mediators. Furthermore, in July, the editor of Djabal Television, a private station based in Grand Comore and the only one to cover events in Anjouan since June, was detained and held for questioning about possible links to Anjouan leaders. In August, two journalists with the station were barred from purchasing airline tickets to the island to cover Independence Day events. In December, Kamal Ali Yahoudha, head of the Anjouan branch of the national broadcasting office, was forced into hiding to escape arrest due to his suspected opposition to the Anjouan authorities.
Comoros has several independent newspapers and one state-owned weekly, Al-Watan. In addition to the state-owned Radio Comoros and Television Nationale Comorienne, several other regional and private stations have proliferated in recent years and are funded predominantly by donations from locals as well as from citizens living abroad. Although the internet is available and unrestricted by the government, poverty, illiteracy, and a poor telecommunications infrastructure limited access to an estimated 3 percent of the population in 2007.