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 Article 15 of the constitution affords the right to free expression, in practice, the government imposes restrictions on the independent press. Free speech is limited by prohibitions on libel and distributing false information, and journalists frequently face harassment. The U.S. military presence in Djibouti creates additional pressures for self-censorship, as journalists are encouraged to refrain from reporting on soldiers’ activities.
In February 2007, authorities confiscated printing equipment from the Movement for Democratic Revival (MRD), prohibiting the opposition party from printing its newsletter, Le Renouveau. The paper’s managing director, Houssein Ahmed Farah, and the paper’s distributor, Hared Abdallah Barreh, were arrested and detained in May on charges of libel. The arrests followed critical coverage of the governor of the national bank, who is also President Ismael Omar Guelleh’s brother-in-law. Authorities subsequently suspended the paper’s production for three months. On June 3, authorities arrested Farah Abadid Hildid, a Le Renouveau employee and MRD member, and on June 14 he was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment on charges of disseminating false information.
According to the advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontieres, Djibouti has joined the ranks of Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea as one of the three sub-Saharan African countries without a private paper, although Djiboutian law technically permits all registered political parties to publish a paper. Because of high poverty levels, radio is the most popular news medium, as few Djiboutians can afford newspapers or televisions. The government owns the country’s only radio and television stations, Radio Djibouti and Djibouti Television, and monitors satellite usage. The British Broadcasting Corporation, Voice of America, and Radio France Internationale are also available, although the latter was closed temporarily in 2005. The country’s only newspaper is the government-owned La Nation, which is published three times weekly. The only internet service provider is owned by the government. Although there are no reports that the government monitors e-mail or internet activity, only 2.2 percent of the population was able to use this resource in 2007.