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Media Group Condemns Djibouti's Tightening of Media Rules


Reporters Without Borders is condemning the Djibouti government for what it calls "a campaign of harassment" on all independent media organizations in the east African country. The report coincides with Wednesday's anniversary marking the 30th year of Djibouti's independence. For VOA, Arjun Kohli has this report from Nairobi.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders criticizes what it calls the increasing authoritarian rule in Djibouti by President Ismael Omar Guelleh. The report was issued after the country's sole opposition newspaper, Le Renouveau Djibutien, was shut down. The newspaper had been published weekly by the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development, but has not been available for the the past five months

Leonard Vincent from Reporters without Borders in Paris told VOA the 30th anniversay celebration should have been used as an occasion to guarantee press freedom. Instead he says the government has created a monopoly on national news.

"What we see is that they do not tolerate any criticism and they have not tolerated recently any specific criticism," said Leonard Vincent. "Djibutians can only be informed through government owned medias since Le Renouveau Djiboutien, the opposition mouthpiece of one of the opposition parties has disappeared recently."

Djibouti is now one of the few African countries, along with Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea, where no private newspapers are published.

The country, which borders Ethiopia and Somalia, gained independence from France in 1977. It was a single party state until 2003, when the first full multiparty election was won by parties supporting President Ismael Omar Guelleh. But Vincent says that, even though a multiparty election has been held, Djibouti is still ruled like a monarchy.

"It is held by a family and a clan and they are ruling according to their own interests and when any body, any voice, any force opposes these interests the answer is repression," he said.

Djibouti government officials were not available for comment.

The only newspapers still being published in Djibouti are the governmental biweekly La Nation and the Arabic-language Al Qaran, published by the ruling Popular Rally for Progress (RPP). The BBC and Voice of America are available on the FM wave band. But Radio France Internationale's FM transmitter was shut down on 14 January 2005 after broadcasting reports about the 1995 murder of French judge Bernard Borrel in Djibouti.