Freedom of the Press

Comoros

Comoros

Freedom of the Press 2014

2014 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

49

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

20

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

15

The 2001 Comorian constitution protects free of speech and freedom of the press, but the government partially restricts these freedoms in practice. Journalists are subject to harsh defamation laws, as well as other forms of legal harassment. In October 2013, a journalist at a state outlet was summoned by the Ministry of Justice and ordered to reveal the identity of her source. Officials castigated the journalist for criticizing the regime, but she was subsequently released. Comoros has no freedom of information law, nor was any such legislation in progress of being drafted or discussed.

In past years the authorities had arrested journalists, seized newspapers, and silenced broadcast outlets for reports that were found to be objectionable, although these practices have become less common of late. Censorship remains a problem, as does self-censorship, particularly at progovernment media outlets. In February 2013, the national public radio and television network and the progovernment newspaper Al-Watwan complied with “orders” to make no mention of a rare meeting held by former president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi in which he hinted at a return to domestic politics. In late 2012, the minister of the interior and information censured the director of Al-Watwan for publishing articles regarding controversies surrounding oil contracts, alleging that they fostered a “negative image of the country and its leaders.” The paper was told to cease publishing on the subject.

Physical attacks on journalists and news outlets occur occasionally. In September 2013, unknown arsonists burned down Radio Baraka FM, a station that had aired reports on sensitive issues, including government corruption. The perpetrators had not been caught by year’s end despite official promises to investigate the incident.

Comoros has several independent newspapers and one state-owned weekly, Al-Watwan.  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. The Anjouan regional government operates its own stations under Radio-Television Anjouanaise. Public radio from the French island of Mayotte and France’s Radio France Internationale are also available in some areas. In November 2012, the owner of the daily newspaper Al-Balad, Lebanese businessman Bashar Kiwan, abruptly shut down the publication and ended broadcasts from the radio station of the same name. The owner cited a hostile political environment, but others saw the shutdown as a move to gain leverage in support of other investments via Kiwan’s Comoro Gulf Holding (CGH). Al-Balad staff threatened to take CGH to court to obtain severance packages.

The internet is available and unrestricted by the government. However, poverty, illiteracy, and a poor telecommunications infrastructure limited access to just 6.5 percent of the population in 2013.