Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 12
Political Influences: 20
Economic Pressures: 15
Total Score: 47
Life Expectancy: 60
Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim (98 percent), Roman Catholic (2 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Antalote, Cafre, Makoa, Oimatsaha, Sakalava
Freedom of speech and of the press received legal protection for the first time with the adoption of a new constitution in 2001. Since then, these rights have generally been respected in practice by the government, but journalists are still regularly subject to harsh defamation laws and harassment. Comoros has several independent newspapers and one semi-official weekly, Al-Watwan. Of the two national radio stations, one (Radio Comoros) is run by the government, and the other (Radio Tropique) is run by the opposition. Private local radio and television stations have proliferated in the last few years and are funded predominantly by donations from locals as well as citizens living abroad. In January, the government suspended the broadcasts of Radio Dzialandze Mutsamudu, one of these local radio stations, for a period of three weeks owing to the station's decision to permit striking doctors to voice their complaints on the air. This most recent press freedom violation has increased the incentive for self-censorship among a press that has routinely been reluctant to criticize the government. Nonetheless, the largest impediment to a free-flowing press is not government interference, but a lack of resources in a severely impoverished society. Such poverty also severely limits the number of citizens who have access to the internet; no more than 1.5 percent of the population was able to access the internet in 2005. At the same time, the government was not reported to have intentionally censored or restricted internet access.
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