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|RSF Calls On Djiboutian Authorities to Release Journalist|
Toronto, May 6, 2003 (International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearing House) - On 5 May 2003, RSF called on the Djibouti government to release Daher Ahmed Farah, editor of the newspaper "Le Renouveau" and leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Renewal party (Mouvement pour le renouveau démocratique, MRD), who has been imprisoned since 20 April.
"As far as we know, he was simply exercising his right to inform the public, a right guaranteed under several international treaties signed by Djibouti," said the organization's secretary-general, Robert Ménard, in a letter to State Prosecutor Djama Souleiman Ali. "Nothing justifies his prolonged detention," Ménard said, noting that the United Nations has condemned the jailing of individuals for peacefully expressing their opinions.
Ménard also deplored the latest seizure of "Le Renouveau" from newsstands and other vendors on 5 May, calling it "serious harassment."
A member of the group Lawyers Without Borders has agreed to defend Farah and will travel to Djibouti in the coming days. Local lawyers have refused to take up the editor's case, and the authorities have refused to release him on bail.
Farah was placed in solitary confinement at Gabode prison after his arrest, and only his mother has been allowed to visit him. The journalist has not been officially charged with any crime, but according to several witnesses, the deputy head of the army, General Zakaria Cheik Ibrahim, reportedly filed a complaint against "Le Renouveau" after it published an article that was critical of him. In its 17 April edition (issue 475), the newspaper had targeted the general in accusing the army of lacking "neutrality" and recalling that the armed forces "must not take sides."
A few days later, special police went to Farah's home and to MRD headquarters without search warrants and seized seven typewriters, a photo enlarger, photocopier ink and all of "Le Renouveau"'s archives.
Farah has been jailed several times in recent years. In most cases, he was charged with violating the press law and handed a prison sentence or fine.
On 15 March, he was detained for one day and fined for "undermining the army's morale".
For further information, contact Jean-François Julliard at RSF, rue Geoffroy Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 84, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Internet: http://www.rsf.org