Freedom of the Press 2008 - Comoros
|Publication Date||29 April 2008|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - Comoros, 29 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4871f5f9c.html [accessed 23 May 2013]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 14 (of 30)
Political Environment: 25 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 15 (of 30)
Total Score: 54 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Although 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 eruption of tensions between the central government and the semi-autonomous 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 in response to Bacar's attempts 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, copies of the independent monthly L'Archipel were removed from stores by union police, due to pictures of soldiers who had been captured on Anjouan. In June, Elarifou Minihadji, a reporter with the Grand Comore's regional government station, Radio Ngazidja, was held and subject to mistreatment by gendarmes on Anjouan for covering a demonstration at the island's airport in response to the arrival of African Union (AU) mediators. Furthermore, in early August, two journalists with Djabal Television, a private station based in Grand Comore that was the only station to cover events in Anjouan since June, were barred from purchasing airline tickets to the island to cover Independence Day events. In December, Kamal Ali Yahoudha, the 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, there are several other regional and private stations, which 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 have severely limited access, which was used by an estimated 3 percent of the population in 2006.